Smriti Mandhana, who will be presented with the Arjuna Award at Rashtrapati Bhavan this month, said that being conferred with the award will definitely motivate her to be a better player and perform well.
Since the 2017 World Cup, Mandhana has a total of 669 runs in 12 matches to her name, with seven fifties and one century. New Zealand’s Sophie Devine is the only player ahead of her in the list, with 700 runs in ten matches. Mandhana has carried that form in the T20 Internationals as well, and has 439 runs in 18 matches to her name, including four fifties. Coming to her overall tally across ODIs and T20Is, she has 1139 runs to her name in 28 innings’. It is the most by an Indian woman player since the 2017 World Cup.
Having made her international debut at the age of 16 in 2013, Mandhana is the tenth woman cricketer to win the award. Shantha Rangaswamy (1976), Diana Edulji (1983), Shubhangi Kulkarni (1985), Sandhya Agarwal (1986), Mithali Raj (2003), Anju Jain (2005), Anjum Chopra (2006), Jhulan Goswami (2010) and Harmanpreet Kaur (2017) are the other women cricketers to have won it before.
Smriti Mandhana was born on 18 July 1996 in Mumbai to Smita and Shrinivas Mandhana. When she was two years, the family moved to Sangli in Maharashtra, where she completed her schooling. Both her father and brother, Shravan, played cricket at the district-level, for Sangli. She was inspired to take up cricket after watching her brother play at the Maharashtra state Under-16s tournaments. At the age of nine, she was selected in the Maharashtra’s Under-15 team and at eleven, she was picked for the Maharashtra Under-19s team.
Mandhana’s first breakthrough came in October 2013 when she became the first Indian woman to achieve a double-hundred in a one-day game. In the 2016 Women’s Challenger Trophy, Mandhana scored three half-centuries for India Red and helped her team win the Trophy by making an unbeaten 62 off 82 balls in the final against India Blue. With 192 runs, she emerged as the tournament’s top-scorer. In September 2016, Mandhana was signed up for a one-year deal with Brisbane Heat for the Women’s Big Bash League(WBBL), and along with Harmanpreet Kaur, became one of the first two Indians to be signed up for the League. In June 2018, Mandhana signed up for Kia Super League where her table-topping 421 runs at a strike-rate of 174.68 took Western Storm to the Finals Day. She became the first Indian male/female to win the player of the tournament award in an overseas T20 league.
Mandhana was the only Indian player to be named in the ICC Women’s Team of the Year 2016. Mandhana came into the team for the 2017 World Cup after recovering from an injury. She helped her team win by 35 runs, and was named the player of the match. In March 2018, she scored the fastest fifty for India in a Women’s Twenty20 International (WT20I) fixture, taking 30 balls to reach a half-century against Australia women in the 2017–18 India women’s Tri-Nation Series.The following month, she was named the player of the series, for the three WODI matches played against England women. On 3 August 2018, she scored the first century in the 2018 Women’s Cricket Super League.
This is what the Sangli girl, whose batting style is compared with Sourav Ganguly, has to say for the future women cricket aspires,
“It’s good. The more people listen about women cricketers the more the parents will send their girls to play cricket,” Mandhana added. “It is about reading in the newspaper or listening in the news about women cricketers. Awards or performances, it will all help a lot of parents to choose cricket for their girls as a career option. There will be a lot of girls playing cricket in the next two-three years and there will be healthy competition.”