Harmanpreet Kaur, India's T20I captain, has spent more time on the physio's table than at the crease in India colours in 2021 but is hopeful of finally being able to change that.
In March, a hip-flexor injury limited her participation in the T20I series against South Africa at home. In April, she was forced to isolate herself after testing positive for Covid-19. Then, she suffered a groin injury that hampered her form and fitness during the England tour and her campaign at the Hundred with Manchester Originals.
Having overcome all that, she flew to Australia and underwent a 14-day hard quarantine, before being hit on the thumb in one of her first few net sessions on tour. It forced her out of the ODIs and the one-off Test.
Now, after several training sessions and the confidence of hitting balls in the nets and undergoing fielding drills full tilt, Harmanpreet wants to make up for lost time and is looking forward to the cricket that is coming up.
While the focus remains around next year's 50-over World Cup, Harmanpreet will have a good run of matches over the next two months - she is one of seven Indians to participate in the WBBL - leading into the tournament. For now, she is excited to be back leading the team as they prepare for the T20I leg of the multi-format series against Australia on the Gold Coast. India currently trail 4-6 and will need a clean sweep to clinch the series.
"It was tough, initially, we didn't play for a year, and then when opportunities came, I got injured back to back," Harmanpreet said on the eve of the first T20I. "You have to accept it sometimes and give time to yourself. Personally, if I keep feeling things aren't going my way, I'll end up draining myself, which isn't good for me. Right now, I am looking forward to playing whatever comes my way. I want to give it my 100%. I'm very thankful to the support staff for taking care of me and managing my workload."
Harmanpreet revealed missing the pink-ball Test was frustrating because she was very close to starting in the XI. "Initially, when I got injured, I was not able to bat or field," she said. "From the second and third day of the Test, I was able to do that. If we had four more days between the Tests and ODIs, I could've played, but unfortunately, we didn't have that much time.
"We need to win all three to win the series, and we want to go all out. We will go with our best talent because we want to win this series at any cost."Harmanpreet Kaur
"It [sitting out of the ODIs and one-off Test] was tough, but I learnt a lot even sitting outside. I'm batting well, I'm fielding well. I didn't play the Test because my fielding was being hampered. Had there been a four-day gap, maybe, I could have. But now I'm confident. I'm absolutely fine and looking forward to lots of cricket coming up."
Then she explained the "learnt a lot bit" by touching upon how the psyche of the team has been different across the last six months. The change of head coach from WV Raman to Ramesh Powar, along with the focus on improving the fast bowling pool and middle-overs batting has meant making a number of changes along the way in search of better balance.
Harmanpreet has had a ringside view of all these, which she elaborated. "See, when we played South Africa and England [earlier in the year], we were playing after a long time," she said. "We were building our team, and we made changes. Players were coming back in [after a while], and it takes time to get back as a group. After both series, now we are all in a great frame of mind.
"Everyone understands their game better after playing in back-to-back series. Things are clear. Both those series helped me learn and build individually and as a team. The three-match T20Is coming up is very important, and everyone is confident and in great form. Smriti [Mandhana] and Shafali [Verma] with the bat, the bowling department has done a great job in the ODIs and Test, everyone is taking equal responsibility, and these are good signs."
Harmanpreet gave a pat to the multi-format nature of the tour that she felt threw up opportunities to players with diverse skillsets. "Earlier, we played a lot of T20s or 50-over cricket. Now this [multi-format tour] gives everyone an opportunity to work on their skills. Say someone has good hitting skills, someone is more patient - everyone gets equal opportunities to prove and perform.
"The momentum we created in the ODIs, it's important, and we want to continue that in the T20Is. We need to win all three to win the series, and we want to go all out. We will go with our best talent because we want to win this series at any cost."
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo