When the BCCI announced that free-hitting batswoman Smriti Mandhana would be awarded the Arjuna Award, there were more smiles than doubts. For Smriti Mandhana, there may not be a better representation of a quintessential, very modern T20 cricketer.
Smriti Mandhana: A dignified, focused competitor
A cool and collected customer, someone who might seem in a hurry given her explosive strike rates, Smriti Mandhana hardly seems flustered out in the middle.
And just here remains an interesting paradox, confounding her image as a frontline batswoman. It often appears that given her penchant for scoring runs quickly, Smriti Mandhana exemplifies the adage of brute strikers of the ball, “You live by the sword, you perish by it”. But for someone who has effectively combined a technically correct approach of pacing her innings with the ability to break through into big shots- it can’t be said that Mandhana is all wham-bam cricket.
Her smooth pacing of innings against South Africa during one of India’s most successful overseas tour in the history of the game and her continued run of form on sub-continental tracks- Mandhana bridged the gap between overseas expectations and domination on home-turfs. She removed the anomaly in the system that often challenges best stroke-makers in a game where performing well on home conditions finds starkly contrasting fortunes thanks to overseas troubles.
Unafraid to express herself freely
The likes of Sune Luus and Van Niekerk weren’t able to find any chinks in her footwork and Kapp and Ismail could do little to dissuade her from collecting runs freely. An able rotator of the strike, what impresses you most about Smriti Mandhana is that even when her bat isn’t leaking runs akin to an open tap, she’s content in changing the strike and watching the proceedings from the non-striker’s end.
That said, it affords star batters in her side (that boasts of both experience and talent) the luxury of engaging in both stroke-making and watchful starts for the presence of the leftie on the other end is enough to calm nerves.
At an age where many of her contemporaries are still finding their feet in the contest where mediocrity has little standing, Smriti Mandhana has already emerged as a threatening force for India’s opponents.
Mandhana’s spirited contribution
Even as her bat didn’t essay a gutsy century like Daniil Wyatt’s 124 in England’s routing of India in a T20, Mandhana was in business. And through the entire course of series. Her unmatched levels of focus and consistency resulted in a rampaging of runs- 531 of them from 9 innings resulted in India winning the 3-match ODI series versus an in-form England.
A prestigious honor like the Arjuna Award will only fan her flames and one would hope it propels Smriti Mandhana to gather more resounding feats for an India that will make to make most of its campaign in the upcoming ICC World T20 in 2018.