In all honesty, she’s the only other Indian cricketer after Sourav Ganguly who signals a thrill the moment she steps out of the crease.
Fielders become spectators and spectators become fielders when that happens generally. And ever since we saw Smriti’s blasting of England in the 2017 World Cup, we’ve come to know how often that happens. At this point in time where her young career is only just picking, one can imagine the prospect of big-hitting that a forthcoming Women’s IPL provides.
The Indian fan lives for simple pleasures of life.
He’s a rare species that enjoys family time whilst eating Mumbai’s famous street food as much as gorging on a five-course meal in a suave five-star.
That ability to constantly find the gaps on either side and then suddenly break into cracking strokes reflects something special.
It means, her batting possesses the spice or flavour as well as the dessert-like value that treats fans deliciously. She’s both focus and aggression on the 22 yards. That’s a trick for bowlers to solve, a puzzle for fielders to cope with. Smriti Mandhana, it may not be wrong to state is fire and ice. All of it- pure passion followed by application.
Big pleasures are often hidden in simplest of virtues.
And today, seeing Smriti blast a fifty is time well spent on TV, a moment well spent amidst cricket. It’s among those simple pleasures of life that something like batting brings.
She’s not a queen of gloss as often her fans think of her to be. She’s a modest, humane and utterly uncomplicated person- it comes across.
Batting to her is breathing, well that’s what seems and contributing to India is the purpose of existence.
The fan can sense that.
And often even in the ways, she gets out, one senses the urgency to up the ante of runs, to score up the rate. And that’s a plus, isn’t it? To have a fearless stroke-maker going for her shots; it’s a thrill.
Sachin, Sir Sunny and Pataudi much earlier inspired people to pick up the bat in India. The likes of Smriti are inspiring people to go for the shots; to give it their all in the field.
As a young competitor, she’s doing her bit in broadening the horizon for cricket in India.
How special is that?
In Indian cricketing context, Smriti Mandhana signifies all that’s right with women’s cricket.
She proves that one doesn’t need to rely on an energy drink to fly. No dream is big enough to realize and no boundary out of one’s reach if you’ve got confidence and flair to bat. Thankfully, she’s in Mithali and Harmanpreet’s side.
As a fan, you don’t want the Ellyse Perry’s or Suzie Bates or Mignon Du Preez to play for any other unit- isn’t it? You feel that growing T20 league give the satisfaction of seeing different green rooms become a shared collective of passion, skin-colour, talent and skill but at the same time you know, come another international competitive game, and the teammates would become rivals.
Similarly, you want Smriti to keep batting for India all the way.
In a country where Sachin’s been awarded a godly status and where the Wall of Dravid inspires endlessly, it’s heartening to find the fan keep cut outs of Smriti Mandhana, playing that ebullient pull.
It’s inspiring. It says the tide is changing. It says women’s cricket is no longer being subdued by the men’s game. It means that the two can co-exist.
There’s a soothing comfort to know peaceful coexistence instead of fierce head-to-heads.
But Smriti is not just the talent- but also the aptitude. Not just a newfound revival of sorts for the sport- but a proof- how far can one’s passion take an individual to.
Soft hands, firm grip, bespectacled look, quiet confidence and abundance of talent; the bandana of exuberance and fire Indian cricket wears today is thanks to Smriti Mandhana.
And here rests her enigma. It’s a growing one, you can tell.
Batting seems a science of experimenting with technique and focus. To others, it’s about taking down the bowlers. Smriti makes it an art form: an art form of destruction, but of course.
In two beautifully different knocks played on different soils- her 57 off 42 in the 2nd T20 against South Africa (2018), in South Africa and scoring the fastest T20 fifty for India Women’s ever, the fiery 76 against England- earlier this year- she proved her craft is not about making cricket a version of Hollywood’s Fast and Furious.
She could change gears in batting at the blink of an eye.
That is what modern cricket is all about, isn’t it? It’s about the shock value and the keeping of cool intense moments. She took 42 balls to score her best T20 score in South Africa which seemed rather slow by her usual ferocious standards. But it was a knock where she married caution with aggression. Staying on when Mithali had departed; stitching a partnership with the middle order whilst going for her strokes.
Back to India then- where bowlers over-pitched, she went down the track. When they took the pace off the ball, she probed for gaps.
Good players go for gaps that exist, great players pierce them, create opportunities. You probably know Smriti is somewhere in the middle by now.
Most importantly, she’s the reason why opening batting possesses the charm and the thrill it does.
Let’s face facts, even today, over 22 years since the 1996 World Cup, Jayasuriya is remembered for giving opening batting a new dimension. The Haydens, Gilchrists followed later.
Smriti is doing to India’s top-order what Sanath had done to Lankans then. It’s a start. It’s fire. It’s revolutionizing of sorts.
And the bad news is- the bowlers- Schutt or Perry, Stafanie or Anisa, Ismail or Kapp, Brunt or Gunn have everything to lose. Thankfully, us fans, have everything to gain. Keep batting Smriti!