Each time Smriti Mandhana walks into the 22 yards there is a certain buzz surrounding the 20-year-old classy left-handed batsman. It is the excitement and the anticipation that she generates which makes her such an exciting player to watch. However, her road to the ICC Women’s World Cup this year has been a turbulent ride – from being sidelined due to an injury to finally making the cut in the nick of time. But for those following the game, Mandhana’s talent isn’t a bolt from the blue. Ever since she recorded her maiden ODI hundred against Australia in early 2016, there has been a lot of chatter regarding her talent among pundits. She was tipped to be the next big thing in Indian women’s cricket. And it is now that at the biggest stage that she has truly come of age and is setting the World Cup alight with her fireworks.
India has played two matches so far in the Women’s World Cup. and in both the matches Mandhana has grabbed eyeballs with match-winning innings of 90 and 106 respectively. In both her innings she has displayed a mix of caution and aggression and shown maturity beyond her age. The best aspect about her batting is the way she has composed them by first playing the ball by its merit and later on taking the attack to the bowlers. Mandhana’s fine blend of youth and fearless aggression has set her apart from the others and has given the Indian side a much-needed impetus at the top of the order.
It may be recalled here that Mandhana’s spot in the World Cup wasn’t secured as he had suffered an injury (in WBBL) and was ruled out of action for almost six months. However, she finally made the cut at the last moment and is reaping the faith shown by the selectors in heaps.
After her hundred against the West Indies, Mandhana became the fifth Indian player to score more than one ODI 100. The others to do so are Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur, Thirush Kamini and Jaya Sharma.
However, Mandhana’s rise to the top has been anything but easy. From being selected for the Maharashtra’s Under-15 state team at the age of nine to considering leaving cricket to pursue academics, she has seen it all. Thankfully her parents stood by her and encouraged her to pursue her passion of playing cricket and finally, on the tour to England and Australia she showed the skills that she possesses and kept hitting the right notes.
Mandhana, who hails from Sangli, a town in Maharashtra also made history last year when she became the only Indian cricketer to be named in the first ever ICC Women’s Team of the Year 2016.