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We could all learn a thing or 10 from these 3 cricket superstars
Cricket aces Ben Stokes, KL Rahul and Smriti Mandhana were put on the spot during a special Decoding Athletes podcast hosted live on Clubhouse – get the lowdown here.
In an enlightening live Decoding Athletes podcast hosted by former England bowler-turned-presenter Isa Guha on Clubhouse, the trio were asked, among other things, to divulge their mindset to the biggest occasions, the sporting idols they’d like to swap places with and the magic of the rivalry between England and India.
Here are some things we learned…
1. If Ben Stokes could be another athlete for a day it would be an F1 driver
The England all-rounder is a motorsports nut and has even raced alongside Alex Albon in Virtual GP races. He would willingly trade places with a Red Bull Racing or Scuderia AlphaTauri driver. As he explained: “I want to get behind the wheel of an F1 car. It’s never going to happen, but I would love it.”
2. KL Rahul aspires to be a combination of Roger Federer and Zlatan Ibrahimović
Switzerland’s 20-time Grand Slam tennis champion and the Swedish striker are very different role models, but they’re the two sporting greats Rahul admires most.
“Something that I love to learn from him is the sheer passion and determination to keep coming back and keep winning again and again and again,” said Rahul of Federer. "The way he does it with so much humility is very inspiring for me. Zlatan is the complete opposite – he’s brash and very loud.”
3. Smriti Mandhana would relish the chance to join the Mumbai Indians
It’s perhaps no surprise that given the choice of joining any Indian Premier League men’s franchise, that the 24-year-old Indian cricketer would choose the Mumbai Indians – after all, she is from Mumbai.
That said, she added: “But all the teams are so good in the IPL, they look after all the players so well.”
4. It’s time to change umpire’s call in cricket officiating
Global cricket governing body the ICC recently opted to keep umpire’s call in the current decision review system, but Stokes believes the time has come for at least a partial rethink.
He explained in the subsequent Clubhouse exclusive Q&A: “Umpire’s call on stumps should stay because that is a prediction after what has happened. But I think umpire’s call with pitching in line and impact should be eradicated, because you can physically see where the ball is pitched and you can physically see where it has hit you. If the ball has pitched in line or hit you in line, I think it should just be green, whereas the ball hitting the stumps is a prediction.”
5. The future’s bright for women’s cricket in the IPL
Stokes, Rahul and Mandhana support the idea of introducing a full women’s IPL tournament. Rahul said he would “love a King Punjab’s women’s team as well”, while Mandhana said “it’s the right time to start women’s IPL”.
Meanwhile, Stokes added: “If you look at where the women’s game has gone to, especially over the last four or five years – I’m very hopeful that there’s a women’s franchise side associated with every men’s franchise side because to be able to grow the women’s game even bigger, what better place than to do it out here in India?”
6. A new home gym helped KL Rahul through quarantine
Confined to one room for seven days is hardly the ideal preparation for the rigours of the IPL, but India’s opening batsman KL Rahul adapted with a home gym set-up, where he trained for two to three hours every day.
“Staying in your room for seven days is not going to be great for my body and going straight out in the Bombay heat,” he explained. “Coming out from a seven-day quarantine is never easy, which is why it’s important to have a set-up. I don’t take too long to get into match fitness.”
7. Nets training is key for Ben Stokes
Stokes has been playing a lot of cricket in India in recent months, with England’s Test series against Team India, the T20 and a one-day series. Now his focus has fully turned to the IPL and adapting to that with putting in some nets training, which has been something of a rarity to date in 2021.
“It’s been really nice to spend some time in the nets,” he explained. “The last four days I’ve been batting for long periods of time in the nets but also being wary that we’ve still got a long time to go, so I’m not burning myself out.”
Tactical cricket training
8. Why the arm sleeve 'row’ is dead and buried
Ben Stokes and KL Rahul had a coming together of sorts during the recent meetings between England and India, when Rahul asked Stokes to remove the white sleeve from his bowling arm. It led to suggestions of bad blood between the pair, which they both laughed off.
Stokes said: “KL asked me to remove it and I had no issues with it. I did crack a joke that I’ve got white arms!” After Rahul asked for the sleeves to come off, he joked: “Then I did hit him for a few boundaries!”
9. They deal with big matches in very different ways
For Smriti Mandhana, it’s about “doing the basics right.” She avoids thinking about the occasion because, “If I’m not calm it doesn’t really suit me as a batter.”
But Ben Stokes takes a different approach and tries to live in the moment while plotting where he would like the game to be with five overs remaining.
In KL Rahul’s case, the pressure is perhaps even higher with the eyes of 1.4 billion people often on him. “I won’t lie, it does get to you sometimes,” he admitted. “It’s hard sometimes, like the last series when I wasn’t getting runs. You shift your focus back to what you’ve been doing well all your life and that’s what’s got you so far.”
10. They all raise their game for the big occasions
India travel to England later this year and Ben Stokes makes no secret of the fact that it represent a revenge mission after the way the tour of India played out. “We’ll be looking for a bit of revenge from the Test series,” he said.
In contrast, KL Rahul believes England remain the No.1 white ball side in the world, admitting, “We sometimes wonder how we’re going to stop a batting line-up like England’s.”
There are two sides Smriti Mandhana raises her game against more than any others: England and Australia. She said: “Whenever you’re against them you have to be 100 percent. You have to step up the mental side. And the rivalry gets even better because we know each other quite well.”
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