While the Women’s T20 World cup was in play in West Indies nearly a year back, the upcoming talent of a young girl, donned the Indian jersey with the number 18 anticipating the next play by her cricketing icon, created havoc on social media. The cricketer we are talking about here is the Men’s team captain, Virat Kohli. Though he is the more popular number 18 – but Smriti Mandhana, who recently earned the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year honour. The 22-year old youngster attained fashionableness when she scored a 90 and a hundred in successive games in the 2017 World Cup which turned the match in the Indian team’s favour. Any follower of Indian Women’s Cricket realized that Smriti was destined for nothing less than greatness. Her interest in cricket commenced as a 5-year old when she witnessed her idol, Mithali Raj, batting. Initially, she was attracted to the sport due to her brother’s interest in it but it grew on her pretty quick.
Under the guidance of Anant Tambwekar, she blossomed as a meticulous student of cricket, tirelessly laboring to work on every flaw for months on end. This aspect ultimately enabled the youngster put up a strong performance last year after she encountered a downward graph in the months succeeding the prestigious World Cup. After improving her performance and getting used to an open stance, which enabled her the liberty to play the shots on the leg-side, impacts were noticed not long after. Smriti showed her mettle in the Kia Women’s Super League in England, where she made 421 runs. Her consistency helped her side progress to the final match of the League, though she had to skip the summit due to international obligations.
Starting her career in 2017, Smriti could only score 26 runs in her following seven innings. Her incapacity to play well towards mid-on was one of the most talked about reasons. On the Indian team’s arrival back home, she worked on rectifying these shortcomings instead of getting absorbed in the novel fame that was suddenly surrounding the women’s cricket team. She had the highest strike rate at 174.68 in both the KSL as well as the Women’s Big Bash League. Mandhana did not fail to impress with her powerful style and her capacity to score runs in all directions of the field.
She was reckoned as a match-winner because of the 21 sixes she hit and her mindblowing performance continued in the World T20. While playing against Australia, Mandhana sweeped everyone off their feet by scoring 83 off merely 55 balls. Her attacking instinct square of the wicket even reminded people of cricketing legends like Sourav Ganguly. She looked comfortable on the off-side not unlike most left-handers. Mandhana slammed sixes with such powerful yet graceful shots that the audience could not resist being pleasantly shocked. As she progressed to tougher opposition, she put her power to use to whack three sixes in one game and that was enough to snatch the game away from Australia.
In a total of 5 games, she made 178 runs and became the sole Indian who seemed relaxed on a two-paced wicket in the semi-final match against England. Her form also made its way into the New Zealand series. For Smriti Mandhana 200 was not far off in 3 ODIs with an astonishing average of 98. This power-packed score was then followed by 180 runs with a spectacular strike-rate of 146.34 in just 3 T20 Internationals. The aspect that left a deep impact on the audience was how Mandhana remained unaffected by the swing and pace of the ball which affected her fellow teammates quite severely.
The short balls accentuated her shots as she timed them perfectly with her back-foot play. Smriti has taken on challenges rather than succumbing to them. Either way, she exudes a class of confidence and composure that helps her nail the opening of an inning. Whether she is playing for the country or an international team, she always brings her A-game by playing to her strengths and constantly rectifying her mistakes. There is not an ounce of doubt that Smriti Mandhana is well on her way to becoming the next big player of the Indian women’s cricket team.