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Shikha Pandey upon returning to India – Belinda Clark made me feel worthy, special

Indian all-rounder Shikha Pandey has credited former Australia captain Belinda Clark for making her feel “dignified” and “special” during her absence from the national team.

In September 2022, Clark facilitated a three-week stint for Pandey in Brisbane, playing club cricket. That stint almost paved the way for a first Women’s Big Bash deal with Brisbane Heat, but Pandey had to turn it down due to her commitments with Goa, her state team.

Four months after a memorable stint in Australia, Pandey’s near future now looks a lot brighter. She will make a comeback after 15 months, having been included in India’s squad for the upcoming T20I tri-series in South Africa and the T20 World Cup next month.

“The one thing I like about Belinda is there was less sympathy and more empathy,” Pandey told Scroll.in. “She listened to my story and then worked with me to set different goals – not only related to cricket, but beyond.

“We worked on my leadership traits, we reviewed several podcasts, we worked on how I could make a difference by being on the state side and she made me feel worthy; special even.”

Pandey highlighted a significant shift in mindset as one of her key takeaways from her Clark mentorship. It helped develop a “team mentality” by promoting a “more inclusive culture” within the teams she showed up for while away from the national team.

“The sessions I had with her helped me a lot to bring about changes in my team environment. We brought in the team mentality, started to believe more in positive reinforcement, we understood the importance of creating a psychologically safe environment where players feel valued… and we also started celebrating our differences and trying to create a more inclusive culture.”

“I remember in one of the early sessions Belinda said something along the lines of how the situations we face don’t define us, but what we choose to do in response to those situations and the decisions we make to get out of them. to come.” those situations define us. She kind of made me realize that I had so much more to offer to the game and giving up wasn’t an option. “

Pandey believes those conversations helped her embrace her vulnerabilities and accept her struggles.

“She told me it was okay to be different,” Pandey explained. “As long as I was myself, it was fine. As a professional athlete, sometimes you are so afraid of struggles and low phases that you try not to do anything that could compromise your ‘safety’ in some way.

“But she explained that you have to be willing to experiment, and you have to understand that you are vulnerable and that’s okay. It’s okay to fail in the pursuit of excellence, that’s how we grow. We have to learn to use our to acknowledge mistakes Those conversations have opened up a lot for me.

“I feel so confident knowing that someone like Belinda Clark has my back. I kept in touch with her the whole time and after being selected I messaged her and spoke to her the next day. I just wanted saying ‘thank you’ because she was in a very low phase with me and gave me enormous confidence to rebuild myself.

“Sometimes when things like non-selection happen, you start doubting yourself and your abilities so much that you become your own enemy. Knowing that she’s in my corner, that she feels I’m really good has helped me more than I can say.”

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