No major shuffles on the crease, just a high back-lift, no hopping or jumping around; just pure focus. Smriti Mandhana’s game-play is quite uncomplicated like her approach to life.
In an age where cricketers seem bubble wrapped in a gung-ho avatar, Smriti is a simple-I’ll just have a green tea, no honey, thank you- person.
There aren’t any selfies in front of some grand architecture that would be a pinned Tweet on anyone’s handles. There’s no luxury car montage in her social media posts. A lot of space is given to smiling shots captured with fans and admirers. There are shots of training and practising in the nets.
To be honest, she revives the nostalgia associated with quite a landmark campaign in cricket advertising: eat, sleep and dream cricket!
A gentle smile, an easy-going attitude and tons of confidence that knows nothing about arrogance, you feel Smriti Mandhana- an average of 40 in ODIs, the strike rate of 112 in T20s- has her feet firmly planted on the ground even if her cricket is interacting with sky-rocketing feats in the game.
For a batswoman who, first held a cricket bat at 4 and has come to be awarded the Arjuna Award at 22, life’s brought a long list of achievements in a short span of time.
One doesn’t remember too many Indian cricketers to have been awarded the prestigious Arjuna Award at 22.
It’s, in many ways, a shape-shifting achievement. It’s worthy of being drafted as the Academy Award-winning moment to narrate the coming of age of women’s cricket in India. It’s huge for someone who, for all practical purposes, is still a young, growing up kid, you know.
22 is the age for a first major heartbreak, the age where one receives a major degree, buys a Scootie, plans the first back-pack with an all girl-gang to Latin America- that sort of an age.
And there we see Smriti drawing the world closer and closer toward appreciating the phenomenon that Women’s cricket in India is becoming. She’s hit hundreds, scored the fifties, starred in run-chases, owned the stage like the Women’s World Cup, inspired comparisons with the greats of the game, been congratulated by everyone starting Sachin to Virat, found a home in Cricket, found another home in the Kia Super League, won admirers in England and Australia, and gone on to shine in WBBL- and all of it- at 22.
For any young cricketer, the prospect of being recognized with the Arjuna Award is a solid stimulus to perform even better. You become a national treasure of sorts. One can only wonder how well will this grand honour lift the spirits of India’s sorcerer at the top order? Is a record-breaking feat around the corner? Will we see some blinders in the outfield and some sixes in tandem on many a delivery on the trot?
You never know what’s the new trick coming off her sleeve do you? In that special thrill rests Smriti’sessence. Doesn’t it?