Shivali Shinde targets improved strength and focused net sessions after Women’s T20 Challenge breakthrough

Shivali Shinde was a part of the Velocity team. © Shivali Shinde

Velocity squad member Shivali Shinde has returned from the T20 Challenge camp with one major goal for her off season, to improve her strength and fitness, as she eyes a place in the team India set up.

Walking through the Taljai Hills in south-east Pune, you are more likely to find a peacock than a rickshaw. Narrow, winding roads hug the trees that dot the hill.  Travel far enough and you will find the Shahu College cricket ground – home to the Sunrise Cricket Club and Maharashtra’s wicket-keeper-opening batter, Shivali Shinde.

She didn’t get a chance to take the field in the WT20 Challenge, but that didn’t mean the tournament was a waste of time. The opportunity to train and watch top international players up close has given the right handed batter the lessons to help her impress in next year’s possibly expanded Women’s Indian Premier League.

“I was very excited to play with the international players, the way they train and prepare themselves. Even though I didn’t get a chance to play, I learned a lot. 

“I would just look at them and go wow! Their fitness is way ahead, they pick up heavy weights so easily!  We need to improve a lot,” she said.

Although she felt she could mix it with the best on a skill level, it was the mindset, along with the work ethic they bring to training and fitness, that Shivali saw as the main difference between the internationals and the domestic players.

“Skill level, I didn’t feel too much difference between me and the ones I was sharing the dressing-room with – but power – yeah there is a lot of difference and the way they prepare themselves for games is very different.

“The way they carry themselves, the way they walk – they look so confident. It’s like c’mon, she is going to score runs, she is going to take wickets.”

The laidback 25-year-old from Kolhapur in eastern Maharashtra has always had an easygoing attitude. Prior to taking up cricket, her favourite activity was sleeping! 

“My brother would go and play and I would be the one sleeping,” she laughs.

There’s a calmness and tranquillity, a shanta chit, to her attitude –  but she’s no sloth. Growing up, she would dedicate eight hours a day to training – four hours in the morning, four hours in the afternoon. She would play with local boys’ teams, which she said gave her an advantage in early competitions against female opponents. It’s this desire to challenge herself and her calm mind that bodes well for a national team call–up. The combination of serenity and work ethic, with a strong desire to win games for India, it’s no wonder her favourite player is MS Dhoni, a player she has the mindset to one day replicate.

Shivali Shinde

Shivali Shinde has been crucial to Maharashtra’s success. © Shivali Shinde

“If you want to make a mark on the Indian team you need to be extraordinary…Playing domestic level is not my bag, it’s representing India and winning games for India, and for that I need to do something extra.”

After the Challenge, it’s clear what that extra is – gaining more strength and approaching net sessions with a clear goal, an attitude she learnt from South African international Laura Woolvaardt.

“After the game, she would analyse the way she batted, she was clear on what she wanted to do.

“I had a bat in the nets with Laura and I asked her what is your plan today?

“She told me, ‘today I am going to practise in certain areas – getting in a good shape, timing the ball. Thinking about my game’,” 

 It’s something Shivali picked up straight away. After the interview, she sat down with her coach to discuss what she needs to improve to take her batting to the next level. 

“After the Challenge, I realised…you can’t just go with the flow, you need to think about your game, you need to analyse and plan accordingly. I started planning my sessions. What are my positive points? What are my negative points? What do I need to improve? The first is strength and fitness,” Shivali said.

A strong offside player, her favourite strokes are through covers and straight down the ground. A wicket keeper too, she believes an increase in fitness is the most important factor to improve her glovework.

She would love to play in the Hundred or the Big Bash. With friends in Melbourne, she would be keen on running out for the Renegades or the Stars, but representing team India is the number one focus.

“I’ve always dreamt of playing overseas, but my first aim is to play for India, which I haven’t done yet. I have played for India A, and I want to go further,” she says, pondering into the distance.

To get her name in front of selectors –  franchise and international alike – she will need more opportunities to impress on the main stage, and she has her sights on the expanded T20 competition. The successful WT20 challenge showed off many domestic talents such as Velocity teammates Kiran Navgire and Simran Dil Bahadur in front of a final of more than eight thousand fans. Unfortunately, for players on the fringe of the starting XI, the shortened schedule meant teams were less likely to experiment with their starting XI. An opening batter, she had internationals Shefali Verma and Yastika Bhatia ahead of her in the lineup. 

Who would she like to play for? A cool headed wicket-keeper batter who lives to win games for India? There is only one possible answer.

“My favourite team is CSK, I am a MS Dhoni fan so I would love to play for CSK.

“The IPL will be great exposure, it will be a great exposure for domestic players…many of the international players are interested, cricket is now creating a lot of opportunities as players, as analysts, as umpires, a lot of girls are wanting to play cricket.”

Although she would love to emulate her idol, MS Dhoni, by playing and winning games for India, right now, in the surrounds of the Shahu College, she’s not thinking that far ahead, she just wants to play cricket –  and she’s no peacock. 

“Right now it’s play cricket, enjoy a game – that’s it.”

Shivali floats back into the training session, comfortable around international stars and juniors alike.