Despite Mona Meshram having been in comparatively better form than Veda Krishnamurthy in the lead up to the ICC Women's World Cup, it was a bit surprising when Veda was not named in the team for the opening game against England.
It was only after Meshram couldn't get going against Pakistan's spinners that Veda was drafted into the playing XI for the game against Sri Lanka in Derby on Wednesday. The decision was conveyed to her just before she began her warm-up in the morning.
In the context of how the match panned out, Veda's 33-ball 29 from No. 7 proved to be decisive for India in a 16-run win. Her running between the wickets during a 50-run stand with Harmanpreet Kaur and her cheeky shots, which included four fours, injected oxygen to the innings.
Having stuttered to 182 for 5 in 44 overs, India added 50 runs in the last six to reach 232 for 8. For perspective, India did not score more than nine in an over until the 45th, but hit 10, 11 and 11 in three of the last five overs.
Veda, the heartbeat of the dressing room, conceded that she was frustrated at missing out on game time, but was cheerful as the team was winning. She also said that a chat with Lisa Sthalekar, the former Australia captain, a day before the game helped her stay relaxed.
"It's a little bit of frustrating when you don't get to play because every time you come to a match, you want to play and perform for your country," she said. "There are a lot of negative thoughts that come to your mind - whether you are good enough and what are the things that are keeping you back. This is where you actually test yourself, whether you are mentally strong or not.
"I had a chat, yesterday, with Lisa Sthalekar. I was discussing a lot of things. It kind of made me relaxed, I guess," she added.
"I was expecting that I would get a chance to play. When I got an opportunity to play, I wanted to make the most of it. Nobody sits and thinks I have performed so I am going to be happy, and if I don't do well then I will feel sad about it. Every individual in our team are happy for others. They don't sit and think only if I am going to do well I will be a lifeline to the team. That is a positive thing about our team."
Surprisingly, Tushar Arothe, the coach, promoted Jhulan Goswami to No. 4 when Deepti Sharma fell in the 37th over after adding 118 with Mithali Raj for the third wicket. It meant that both Kaur and Veda got pushed down by one position in the batting order. Veda explained that the logic was to allow Goswami to play a few shots in the batting Power Play and not risk her or Kaur's wicket.
"When we were batting I was relaxed and sitting back thinking I won't get to bat because our order was a little shuffled. I was relaxed and that helped me bat a lot better," she explained.
"The whole idea of the coach was to get quick runs. In that process, they didn't want to lose either me or Harman in the Power Play. They didn't want to take that risk. If one of us had got out trying to go big, then it would have pushed us back. Harman and me had a good 50-run partnership at the end. We didn't want to lose a batsman."
Veda's knock allowed India to make up for the high proportion of dot balls in the first 45 overs. In total, India failed to score off 165 balls, or 55 percent of the innings. Veda, who batted as low as No. 7 for the first time in her 35-match career, said that viewing her role in the line-up independently of what happens before she goes out to bat keeps her fresh.
For the record, she averages 33.66 from No. 6, from where she has batted in seven games.
"I wouldn't say dot balls actually create any pressure," she shared. "Whether it is less dot balls or more dot balls, my job is to get quick runs at the end. If you are 213 or 160 at the end of the 40th over, it doesn't make any difference to my role. I still have to go and get those quick runs."
Veda has so far taken three brilliant catches in the tournament, including two against Sri Lanka. But India's overall fielding standards have been up and down despite the continuous efforts of Biju George, the fielding coach.
"To be frank, we are not completely happy. It's in bits and pieces that we are doing well. Collectively, there are a lot of chances we have missed," acknowledged Veda.
"The seats are a little white, and there is the wind factor. It keeps changing. One over it is left to right and next over it is right to left. There are a lot of adjustments to make. Since it is a shorter format, there is no particular position that you are standing in. So, you keep moving. It plays a lot on your mind as well."
Now that she has earned the right to be in the XI, Veda's role will become crucial in the batting and fielding departments as the World Cup approaches its moving week.