Sharjah: Trailblazers skipper Smriti Mandhana said not knowing when they would get to play next gave them extra motivation to "give their all" in the Women's T20 Challenge final against Supernovas on Monday.
The Indian players returned to action after a six-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic and with the world still going through the health crisis, their playing future remains uncertain.
"I just told the girls that these are the last 20 overs of the tournament. Because of the COVID-19 situation we don't know when we'll come out next, so we wanted to give it our all," Mandhana said at the post-match presentation after her team defended a modest 118.
"140 was quite achievable and this is what I need to work on in finishing innings. 135 would have been ideal but nevertheless 118 was good on this wicket. It was a hard wicket to bat on and we had quality spinners."
Mandhana, who was also named player of the match for her 49-ball 68, said she had wanted to carry on but could not.
Asked about life during coronavirus-forced lockdown, she said, "The first one two months of the lockdown was good to spend time with the family. The players in the last three-four months got time to go out and start hitting some balls.
"It was a good time for all of us to go back and work on ourselves which we don't get usually."
Losing captain Harmanpreet Kaur rued the lack of partnership in her side's run chase.
"It wasn't that tough a total to chase but we just didn't get partnerships. We needed two good partnerships, but we didn't," she said.
"We couldn't do it this time but it is part of the game and we'll take it as a learning."
Harmanpreet, who top-scored for her side with 30 off 36 balls, batted with discomfort towards the end of her knock and she was seen limping while running between the wicket.
"The injury isn't that bad. It was really tough for me; while fielding only I got hurt but you have got to be there for the team. I tried my best but couldn't win it for the team," said the India T20 skipper.
She said sitting at home during the lockdown was really difficult.
"But we have to respect the things that are going on and be safe. Yes definitely, women's cricket is back."
Player of the series for taking eight wickets, including a five-for on Monday, Supernovas' Radha Yadav said the plan was to bowl the normal stock ball as the track was spinning.
"It feels great to pick a fifer, but isn't nice to not be on the winning side. I worked very hard on my bowling in the lockdown, and I think it shows. I was playing consistently even in the lockdown and I was in touch, so it didn't feel like I was coming back after a long time," said Yadav.
Salma Khatun's was winning spell: Mandhana
Mandhana also said that she always believed in her team's potent spin attack to defend a low total in the final.
Despite a fiery start, Trailblazers could post only a modest 118 for eight on Monday but Mandhana said she knew the slow nature of the surface would help her side.
"It was an amazing performance. We tried to get to 130-140 but somewhere we lost track. Wicket was tough to bat so I knew any total around 120 would be a fighting total. We have good spin attack and I was really positive from first ball," said a beaming Mandhana at the post match press conference.
Off-spinner Salma Khatun took three wickets in the penultimate over, dismissing rival skipper Harmanpreet Kaur in the process and Mandhana acknowledged her effort.
"She was brilliant. Those spells win you matches. She is an experienced campaigner. I just told her to believe in herself and she delivered. Her spell was the winning spell," she said.
Thai cricketer Natthakan Chantham impressed one and all with her agility on the field and it wasn't a surprise that Mandhana picked her for special praise.
Chantham was a live-wire on the field. The boundary she saved with her acrobatic effort was a good advertisement for women's cricket. She also took a stunning catch in the cover region.
"There were 2-3 brilliant fielding efforts, especially Chantham. I have not seen a girl field like that."
Mandhana herself was played a key role in her side's total as she stroked her way to a brilliant 68.
Talking about her own innings, the captain said she was in good rhythm and all she needed was to find the gaps.
"I was timing the ball well (even) in the last match but unfortunately I was finding the fielders but today it was a conscious effort to hit the ball in the gaps. That was the only thing I was thinking."
Playing cricket after a long seven-month gap obviously made the players happy, she said.
"We were looking to play and meet everyone. We did not meet for 7 months, that is very rare. Last six months were tough for whole world. It was worth to come and play. I thank BCCI for organising this. Hopefully we (will) keep playing, it keeps us happy," she said.
Supernovas' senior player Shashikala Siriwardene also thanked the BCCI for conducting the event in challenging times and said the tournament was a great platform for the youngsters.
"We can play and watch in bio bubble, they have planned it, so I thank BCCI. We have to do some sacrifice due to COVID-19. Girls will be motivated to come to sport and it impacts women's cricket."
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