Before she can think of the pink ball, however, her immediate focus is on tackling the Dukes ball in England
Smriti Mandhana has admitted that playing a day-night Test had been inconceivable to her until the announcement of India Women’s first-ever pink-ball Test, against Australia later this year.
“Frankly, when I used to watch day-night Tests of men, I actually never felt that I will be able to experience this moment – it’s wrong to say ‘I’ at the moment – that the Indian team will be able to experience the moment,” Mandhana told ESPNcricinfo. “So, when it got declared, I was like, ‘Oh, wow. That’s going to be crazy.'”
The day-night Test against Australia, part of a multi-format seven-match tour, is scheduled from September 30 to October 3 at the WACA Ground in Perth, the venue for first ever international fixture between the two teams, a one-off Test in January 1977. The pink-ball Test will be India’s first four-day fixture (the standard length of women’s Tests) against Australia since 2006 and their second Test match this year, with a one-off Test against England scheduled to take place next month in Bristol.
“I remember playing my first day-night one-day or T20 match,” Mandhana said. “I was pretty excited, like a small kid. I was like, ‘Wow, we’ll be able to play a day-night match’ and all of that.
“Now that we are going to play a day-night match, [we have] lots of things to work on but [there’s a] lot of excitement…excitement about being part of a day-night Test match, and that too in Australia, against Australia; it’s always a good challenge. It’s going to be a great moment for the Indian women’s cricket team.”
Mandhana’s only two Test appearances date back to 2014, when India last played the longest format. She debuted in the Wormsley Test against England in August that year and featured against South Africa in Mysore three months later. India won both Tests, by six wickets and 34 runs respectively.
A frontline opener for India across formats, Mandhana, who is currently serving a pre-England-tour mandatory quarantine with the India squad in Mumbai, said the excitement around playing a Test for the first time since 2014 remained unparalleled.
“When we got to know of the first Test, against England, the whole team was really excited,” Mandhana said. “We all were looking forward [to it]. The last Test match I was part of was in 2014, so it’s been quite a long time, we haven’t gone out in whites, so that excitement of playing a Test match [after nearly seven years] was on another level.”
At the domestic level, the last multi-day women’s tournament in India – the 2017-2018 Senior Women’s Inter-Zonal Three-Day Game, was held in March-April 2018, in Thiruvananthapuram. Mandhana didn’t feature in that ten-match competition as she had been on national duty at the time for home series against Australia and England.
When asked if the lack of familiarity with the pink ball could be a concern around India’s preparedness heading into the Australia tour, Mandhana said the focus at present was the Test against England starting June 16.
“It’s too early at the moment,” she said. “It’s just going to be a process. You have to get adapted to it. It’s too early for us to start the pink-ball preparations because the match is three-four months later.
“At the moment it’s more about the England Test match, the Dukes ball and all of that stuff, so let’s see.”
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha