Smriti Mandhana said that being conferred with the Arjuna Award will motivate her to be a better player.

Mandhana, the Indian opener, has had a bumper year. She is the second-highest run-getter in One-Day Internationals since the cycle beginning after the 2017 World Cup. She tallies 669 runs in 12 matches with seven fifties and one century. Only New Zealand’s Sophie Devine is ahead of her in the list with 700 runs in ten games.

She has been equally impressive in Twenty20 Internationals in the same period with 439 runs in 18 matches, which includes four fifties. Her overall international tally stands at 1139 runs in 28 innings at 45.56 – the most by an Indian since the 2017 World Cup.

Mandhana also made a strong impression in the Kia Super League in England where her table-topping 421 runs at a strike-rate of 174.68 took Western Storm to the Finals Day. She became the first Indian – male or female – to win the player of the tournament award in an overseas T20 league.

“It is good to get Arjuna Award. First I did not know what Arjuna Award is, when I was 15-16 years old and other people used to get,” Mandhana told Women’s CricZone in Colombo on Saturday (September 21). “Amrita ma’am (Amrita Shinde, the former India batter), my mentor, used to say that you will definitely get this when I am 21-22. I used to ask her, ‘what’s that award, I don’t even know.’ When I became 17-18, I understood what it is. I was not expecting to get, I used to think she was just telling like that. It feels good to get the award and definitely motivates me to be a better player and perform well.”

Mandhana, who made her international debut at the age of 16 in 2013, is the tenth woman cricketer to win the award. Shantha Rangaswamy (1976), Diana Edulji (1983), Shubhangi Kulkarni (1985), Sandhya Agarwal (1986), Mithali Raj (2003), Anju Jain (2005), Anjum Chopra (2006), Jhulan Goswami (2010) and Harmanpreet Kaur (2017) are the others in the list.

The Sangli girl felt that the recognition is a big boost for  women’s cricket as it will help spread awareness. “It’s good. The more people listen about women cricketers the more the parents will send their girls to play cricket,” she added. “It is about reading in the newspaper or listening in the news about women cricketers. Awards or performances, it will all help a lot of parents to choose cricket for their girls as a career option. There will be a lot of girls playing cricket in the next two-three years and there will be healthy competition.”

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