Harmanpreet Kaur has admitted that the longer-than-expected recovery from the groin injury she sustained in March, followed by her contracting Covid-19 later that month, affected her preparations leading up to India's ongoing tour of England. That, in turn, she said, has played a part in her lean patch with the bat on the tour.
Kaur made 4 and 8 in the drawn one-off Test in Bristol last month, and followed up with 1, 19 and 16 in the ODI series that followed.
"I'm someone who likes to train every day and work hard every day. Because of Covid and injuries I didn't get much time to prepare," Kaur said ahead of the first T20I in Northampton. "This is not an excuse because I'm someone who takes a bit of time on the ground to prepare because at the international level, you cannot just come and get things easily.
"Cultivating the mindset and approach you require at this level is not easy. But after five innings [on this tour], I've understand how and in what areas I need to improve. In the T20I series you will definitely see a different approach from my side."
Kaur suffered the groin injury during the fifth and final ODI against South Africa on March 17, and missed the three-match T20I series that followed, with Smriti Mandhana leading the side in her absence. There was no official word from the BCCI at the time on the nature or seriousness of Kaur's injury.
"During the game [fifth ODI] I had picked up a groin injury on the left side having already been carrying a grade-four injury in my groin on the right side," Kaur said when asked about the specifics of the injury and rehab carried out thereafter. "Given ODIs are longer [than T20Is] and after rehab... Again, as I said earlier, because of Covid we are not getting those practice games that we get before international assignments. So directly going and playing [in the main matches] and testing yourself is not the right thing.
"But we didn't have any additional time. And I'm someone who likes to give 200 per cent on the field and chances of injuries can be high sometimes. I know a lot of time my physios and trainers say, 'Just save yourself and play,' because I like to give 200 per cent."
"The [second] groin injury was a grade-two one, but because of Covid the NCA (National Cricket Academy) was also shut at the time, so I was doing my rehab online, through Zoom meetings. And during that time I also got Covid myself, so the injury that would have required 15 days [to recover from] took about two months, and then a month after Covid, as you would know, you don't feel much strength in your body to go and train.
"That phase didn't allow me to work much on batting or bowling skills. I was just working on myself so that I was physically fit for the team."
Kaur also said the lack of warm-up matches in England kept her from building up batting rhythm.
"We didn't get a single practice game and we struggling even for open nets sessions," she said. "I usually prefer more open nets and practice games than nets because in regular nets you don't get much of an idea and every day you're facing the same bowlers, so you can't analyse how you should be batting.
"These are not excuses, but a reality that I faced. It's just the matter of a good innings and once you get back that momentum I will definitely carry that ahead."
Before being grounded by injury and Covid, Kaur seemed to be getting into form during the ODIs against South Africa in Lucknow. In India's first international series in close to a year, she made 40, 36 and 54* before retiring hurt on 30 in the final game. In India's last assignment before that series, the T20 World Cup in Australia, Kaur had gone through a poor run, managing a top score of just 15 in five innings.
Her performance in that tournament was a contrast to her displays in other recent ICC events: her 171 not out in the semi-finals of the ODI World Cup in 2017 and her 103 in the 2018 T20 World Cup opener had been pivotal to India's strong showings in both tournaments.
"I do watch videos of matches where I have performed well, whether it was a long innings or a cameo in a winning cause," Kaur said, when asked if she uses her own past performances to lift herself up when the runs aren't flowing. "Such innings you feel like watching several times over because they always motivate you to perform better and they boost your confidence.
"But at the back of the mind, as I said earlier, I'm someone who works every day and I have realised this time (during this tour) that you have to figure out ways yourself to get the best out of yourself when you don't have enough time to prepare. I'm watching those videos of myself and I hope they'll help me in this T20I series."