This is no ordinary award, it’s an extension of India’s most revered merit for sports-persons and Smriti Mandhana joins an elite list whose previous winners include Virat Kohli, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur.
A dashing opener, a carefree striker of the ball but amongst the most promising names in women’s cricket for whom balancing across the ODI and T20 format is often akin to a child’s play, Smriti Mandhana’s bat has been oozing fire of late.
And in leaving no stone unturned in extending punishment to world-class bowling talents from sides like England, Australia and South Africa, class acts like Sune Luus, Kapp, Niekerk, Schutt, Ecclestone, Perry, Shrubsole and many others have suffered the ignominy of seeing the white ball being deposited into the stands whenever Mandhana’s freed her arms. This has actually been a constant phenomenon whether one speaks of India’s successful tour to South Africa earlier this year which resulted in a historic T20I and ODI series triumph and an important ODI series win against an in-form England at Nagpur, a month earlier.
Across both the series, Mandhana was the cynosure of all eyes, striking the ball with the excitement of a cricketer having just made her debut, pulling the verve and dashing off a top-notch talent that is quite simply, hard to undermine.
Apart from her glorious form against key rivals Australia and England- arguably women cricket’s two very balanced sides- Mandhana’s also been a key lynchpin in a successful world cup campaign enjoyed by Mithali Raj’s team India. Had it not been for the 21-year-old’s dazzling form in the 2017 ICC World Cup, one’s not sure if India may have reached the final stage of a tournament of epic proportions.
Given her prolific run this year, Mandhana’s fortunes have received a special spike, with the left-handed batswoman grabbing a rare first: a career-high fourth place standing in the ICC ranking’s for women cricketers (ODI).
In her previous nine ODI innings, Smriti’s bat has exulted fire and resulted in collecting a whopping 531 runs, the most accomplished by any other batswoman and is above all- a great indicator for the sign of things to come. As in a few months’ time, the international teams will be competing for glory in Women’s World T20 2018.