Make no mistake. Smriti Mandhana is no Ellyse Perry. Nor is she, a Suzie Bates or Sophie Devine. Not an all-round star; not someone who contributes in both departments of the game, as do these heroes in shaping the sport uniquely showing great dexterity and skill.
Though make no mistake of undermining Smriti Mandhana either. For there are always talents whose single skill can go a long way toward lifting their team.
Cricket is glad Smriti chose to wield the bat instead of spending time in the laboratory doing experiments or becoming a physician for science which was the first love of this once bespectacled teenager. Her fans are glad endlessly so for Mandhana, who once enrolled for cricket trials, aged just nine-and purely for fun- continued to focus on what happens on the 22 yards instead of foraying toward the field of hospitality, which too could’ve been a career direction.
What’s absorbing about this talented batter, ball-smasher, gap-finder, exhauster of fielders, is that at an age where some make their debut, Smriti Mandhana is already the vice-captain of India’s white-ball cricket.
Let’s also not discount the fact that she’s no less than any current great in that she’s gone on to achieve dizzying heights at such a young age where many still struggle to become mainstays in a sport that can both make and break you.
You can easily discard simplicity for arrogance when the game’s most powerful board, BCCI, considers you for the Cricketer of the Year award. But when a 21-year-old kid found to her pleasure the revered board extending her the choicest honour in light of her sensational 2017 performances, Smriti chose to be dignified and simple as ever.
This was when it wouldn’t have cost her a dime to throw her weight around or put on an external façade.
Today, her mere presence lifts the spirit of any team, for instance, The Hundred’s Southern Brave, an outfit that will see Mandhana rubbing shoulders with famous stars of the likes of Stafanie Taylor, Danielle Wyatt.
Though, with time, the batter associated with big heaves over mid-wicket and the ballerina-style dancing down the crease to lift a hit over the ropes has changed.
In a sport constantly evolving, Smriti, a fine adapter across all formats, has responded to the challenge calmly with unruffled excellence.
Perhaps that is why you see the determined left-hander with 1901 T20 runs, at a strike rate touching 122.
Perhaps that is why today having Smriti Mandhana on strike also means urgent repair-work when the team is in dire straits and not just flamboyant stroke-making that beholds the audiences’ attention like a Christopher Nolan special.
What’s incredible about Smriti, it must be noted, is the relative ease with which she negotiates bowling attacks in foreign conditions and is no slave to familiar sub-continental pitches, loathed for being flat decks.
Picture the maiden ODI of 2018 in South Africa.
A batter who's career-best score came not only against one of the most feared bowling attacks- Shabnim Ismail, Marizanne Kapp, Ayabonga Khaka, and Dane van Niekerk- but was punctuated by sheer dominance.
If the intrepid Indian fan cannot forget Harmanpreet Kaur’s heroic century in the 2017 World Cup against England, then one also cannot ignore Mandhana’s 135, which came a year later, also on an away tour.
At 25, there’s more to Smriti Mandhana than her good looks and charming mugshot that grace headlines and fills stadia around the world.