Smriti Mandhana ends wait for home century

Smriti Mandhana's previous six centuries all came away from home

Tanveer Singh Kapoor
New Update
Smriti Mandhana

Smriti Mandhana's first century at home for India © BCCI

Smriti Mandhana had six international centuries to her name before the South Africa all-format series began. From Hobart, Taunton and Kimberley to Napier, Hamilton and Carrara, all of the Indian vice-captain’s centuries came away from home. But Mandhana finally achieved what was long due - an international century in India - against the Proteas on Sunday (June 16). She hit her seventh ton on a surface she described as a ‘two-paced wicket’ with the odd ball keeping low and the odd ball rising.

Besides her maiden international home century, she also reached a milestone of 7,000 runs in international cricket. Mandhana is the sixth batter in the world to achieve the milestone, joining fellow Indian Mithali Raj in this elite club. She also broke former Australian skipper Meg Lanning’s record to become the youngest player to achieve the same, aged 27 years and 334 days.

Looking back at her knocks on Indian soil, there have been a plethora of incidents where the left-handed opener was just a few steps away from reaching the three-figure mark. However, the phase of nervous 80s and 90s and the pressure of getting the century can get to a batter at times. We have witnessed the same thing happening to the best of cricketers, and Mandhana is one such example.

“I knew I hadn't scored a century in India, but that didn't come to mind when I was batting. More than the hundred, happy we got to 260 plus,” Mandhana said immediately after the innings.

Since her international debut in April 2013, Mandhana has been dismissed between the score of 70 and 99 on ten occasions in ODIs, twice in Tests and six times in T20Is. This sums up her century woes throughout her batting career. The most recent instance was during India’s home season in December 2023 in a one-off Test against Australia in Mumbai. Mandhana was batting comfortably on 74 runs, but a mix-up between her and the non-striker Richa Ghosh made her depart the crease despite being well-set.

Although Mandhana has scored six hundreds while playing overseas, she has been through the same situations there as well. She fell short of her sixth ODI ton by just nine runs when India toured England in the white-ball series in September 2022. In the first ODI, batting on 91 runs, she lost her wicket in the 37th over to Kate Cross. In that infamous 2022 Women’s World Cup game against South Africa which had a nail-biting end, Mandhana was, yet again, nearing her century. But she lost her wicket on 71 runs in the 32nd over. These instances show how time was on her side, but Mandhana still missed out on her century by a few runs.

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But on Sunday, Mandhana kept her calm despite India losing five wickets before the scoreboard clocked 100 runs. While the entire middle order collapsed at the hands of South African bowlers, it was the Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) skipper who steadied the ship and built the innings for the home side with some crucial support from Deepti Sharma and Pooja Vastrakar.

During the mid-innings break, Mandhana admitted that she was finding it hard to keep her shots under control during the net practice after having continuously played T20 cricket in the last five-six months. This was her first ODI appearance since the home series against Australia in December and her first international century since March 2022.

“I was really mad with myself in the last four-five years. Whenever I played at home, be it ODIs or Tests, I always ended up scoring 70-80 runs and throwing away my wicket,” Mandhana said during the post-match press conference. “I didn’t really think about it (century) a lot, but I’m pleased to know that it has happened. I hope it keeps coming and it stays,” she continued. This innings could prove key to her international career as it would give her more confidence to sustain her wicket and go for big scores.