Someone’s got to be listening and acting as Indian skipper Harmanpreet Kaur has yet again stressed the need of having a sports psychologist traveling with the team on a more regular basis.
In 2019, after England’s women’s wicketkeeper-batter, Sarah Taylor called time on her career, citing anxiety and depression as the reason, India women’s T20I skipper Harmanpreet Kaur said, “We are working on that (the mental aspect of the players). We have requested the BCCI for someone like a sports psychologist, who can travel with us. We have spoken to coach as well. Nowadays, the pressure is high. You need someone to discuss things when they are not fine.”
A request from 2019 now again has been repeated as Harmanpreet Kaur stated, “We as a team discuss a lot on these things. Your performances go up and down, and it is better to take a break than pushing too hard in such times. As a team, we want to help that player, and we are very open about players taking break when there is mental fatigue and things do not go as you want.”
Harmanpreet Kaur on her first-hand experience of playing in a back-to-back series said, “Last year, I went through these things playing back-to-back cricket. This year, we had the Commonwealth Games, and the Hundred was there (back-to-back), but I wanted to take a break. Playing back to back does take a mental toll, and it is good to take a break at times than pushing too hard.”
The talks of mental health have come back into the limelight after England’s stand-in skipper Nat Sciver, just before the start of the India series, pulled out to prioritise her mental health and well-being.
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The Indian women’s team when toured New Zealand early this year for a bilateral series and the Women’s World Cup did get along with Dr Mugdha Bavare who was with the team as a mental-health conditioning coach who’d helped the team immensely. Harmanpreet Kaur credited her stating, “Mugdha ma’am is traveling with us, she has been helping us a lot” and personally felt she was “brought out of a shell” following a string of poor outings.
On Dr Mugdha Bavare, Harmanpreet Kaur in the pre-series presser said, “When we were on the New Zealand tour, (Bavare) was our go-to person and helped us a lot. I hope in future also we can get her with us because right now we are paying too much attention to our physical fitness and skills. But mental skill is something we need to take seriously.
“We represent our country, and there is a lot of pressure. Sometimes you only put so much pressure on yourself because you know your game and your ability, and what you can do for your country. So sometimes expecting too much can also pull you back. In such times, if you can go to someone and express yourself and get some ideas about how to go about your own things, it will help you ease out.”
Harmanpreet Kaur continued, “She was there when I was going through a lot of things. She helped me a lot, and my family and friends were talking to me and telling me every day what I am and what I can bring to the team. I spent a lot of time with Mugdha and got positive results. I started performing again, getting those runs I really wanted to get for my team.”
Indian all-format skipper concluded by saying, “How much ever big a player you are, after a point you need someone, a mental-skill coach because mental health is as important as your physical fitness and skills. We need to have someone always with us because that is one part that is easily ignored, not only in sports field but even out of the field. If we can go to people who can help us on the mental aspects, things get easier and you feel relaxed, and you feel you have more areas where you can go and express yourself.”
Women’s cricket has evolved and come a long way ahead and the same calls for regular required changes to take place. The toil, the pressure, the trolls and everything that can be added to the same category is all that a player carries on each time they take the field and with Harmanpreet Kaur herself making public requests (twice in three years), expectations move to the people holding offices to act, now.