Smriti Mandhana found captaincy “quite tricky” during the WPL and struggled to manage the hype that came with the role, her Royal Challengers Bangalore teammate Heather Knight has said.
Knight, speaking on the latest 100% Cricket Podcast, suggested the hype surrounding the inaugural edition of the WPL and the pressure that comes with captaining a high-profile team affected Mandhana, whose side won just twice in eight matches.
Mandhana was charged with leading a side comprising international heavyweights in Ellyse Perry, Sophie Devine, Dane van Niekerk, Megan Schutt and Knight herself, but RCB still finished fourth out of five teams.
“I know Smriti really well. I've played with her at Western Storm before and Hobart Hurricanes a few years ago, so I know [her] really well,” Knight told Nasser Hussain and Frankie Mackay in the ICC 100% Cricket Podcast.
“I'm good friends with her. And I felt her at times actually, like the amount of pressure she was under was unlike probably no one has experienced before.”
Mandhana was signed up by RCB for INR 3.4cr – the highest winning bid at the WPL auction earlier this year – and was named captain of the side despite a relative lack of experience in the role.
She also struggled with the bat, scoring 149 runs in eight games, at an average of 18.62 and a strike-rate of 111.19.
“The most expensive player in the team, captaining … she doesn't have a huge amount of captaincy experience, and she's having to captain the likes of me, Ellyse Perry, Sophie Devine – we had a very experienced overseas team,” Knight elaborated.
“So I think she found that quite tricky. Just the hype as well. And there were polls on the telly after two games, ‘Is captaincy affecting Smriti Mandhana’s batting?’”
Despite a tough outing, however, Knight backed Mandhana to be better for the experience, and lauded her composure as a key strength.
“The intensity and the pressure is so big on her out there. And I think she did find it tough, but I think she'll learn a huge amount from it, and be a better captain because of it,” said Knight.
“I had a really good relationship with her on the field. I'd try and chip in, but ultimately she was running the show.
“She's quite a relaxed, calm captain. And certainly one that wants to bring the group together. Her role in the Indian side as the vice-captain is to bring the group together, bring the younger players and the older players together. So that's certainly one of our strengths.”
Despite RCB struggling, Knight enjoyed her experience at the inaugural WPL. “It was a really great competition to be involved in,” she said.
“A very different experience to one I've ever experienced before. Just the intensity of the tournament and the off-field commitment in terms of shooting a few cringey ads myself, and doing things like that was just like nothing I've ever experienced.”
Listen to the full episode with Heather Knight on the latest ICC 100% Cricket Podcast on your favourite platform.