No. 1 in ODIs & Captain in T20Is, Mandhana Now Wants a World Cup

The 22-year-old, enjoying the purplest of patches, is set to lead the Indian women’s team for the first time.

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Cricket
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Captain Smriti Mandhana addresses a news conference in Guwahati ahead of India’s T20I series against England.
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A small goal already achieved, Indian women's team opener Smriti Mandhana has now set her sights on winning a World Cup title with the national team.

Mandhana became the number one ODI batter in the ICC Women's Rankings last month following her exemplary run of form, and will lead India for the first time in their three-match T20I series against England, starting in Guwahati on Monday, 4 March.

She says her goal is to stay at the top – and win a world title.

“As a kid when you start playing, you always think of winning the World Cup. Obviously, there are individual targets like, getting to ICC world no.1 spot. And reaching there was really pleasing but now I have to work even harder. To stay there is much more important than getting there.”
Smriti Mandhana

Mandhana is standing in as captain for the injured Harmanpreet Kaur in the T20Is against England. At 22, she becomes the third-youngest player to lead India in women’s cricket.

The upcoming series offers the Indian women’s team a chance to finalise their core group of players ahead of the T20 World Cup early next year, but Mandhana said the primary aim is to win the series, which she believes will throw up new players in turn.

“Definitely we are looking to win the series and not just trying out new faces. We really have a very exciting team. It is important for us to believe that we are going into the series to win it rather than experimenting,” the skipper said.

“First goal is to win the series and if we can achieve that we will definitely be able to find new faces for the World Cup. It would be much easier rather than thinking the other way.”
Smriti Mandhana
Smriti Mandhana pictured at a practice session during India’s ODI series against England, where the hosts trumped the world champions 2-1.
Smriti Mandhana pictured at a practice session during India’s ODI series against England, where the hosts trumped the world champions 2-1.
(Photo: PTI)

The ICC Women’s T20 World Cup will be held in Australia from 21 February to 8 March next year.

T20 World Cup Preps Underway

Mandhana said India’s preparations for the T20 World Cup have already begun, and the composition of the side will start to become clear in the next six to eight months.

“Me and Raman sir (coach W V Raman) have spoken about the things which we lacked in New Zealand tour and the way our batting order will be shaping for the next World Cup. So, it’s a really exciting time because we have such a young side. We will have to wait for 6-8 months to see where all the players are.”
Smriti Mandhana

Asked about all-rounder Harleen Deol, who replaced Harmanpreet in the squad, Mandhana said: “I think it was a selectors' decision but I think she is a brilliant player and for T20 format she is a perfect all-rounder.

“She can bowl that 2-3 crucial overs and gives a lot as a batter. She is also a brilliant fielder. Definitely, she will have a huge role to play in T20s for India in the future.”

Unaffected by Captaincy

On the individual front, Mandhana said her approach towards her game won't change much after becoming captain.

“The preparation won't change because as a vice-captain for the last 2 years I have been attending all the meetings of strategy. I know already what we are going to do before the match when I was not the captain. But I will make extra effort to speak to bowlers,” she said.

“I have been playing under a lot of captains in the last 4-5 years and I have tried to learn everything from them. I don’t really like to mix captaincy and batting...as it will complicate me more.”
Smriti Mandhana
Smriti Mandhana struck two half-centuries during India’s 2-1 series win vs England, taking her tally since the start of 2018 to 12 scores of 50+ in 18 innings.
Smriti Mandhana struck two half-centuries during India’s 2-1 series win vs England, taking her tally since the start of 2018 to 12 scores of 50+ in 18 innings.
(Photo: PTI)

Mandhana also praised the BCCI for taking the matches to smaller venues as it attracts larger crowds, which according to her is a must for the development of women's cricket.

“It's a brilliant initiative. The time we have landed in Guwahati the reception has been really amazing. All the players are really happy with the kind of response people are giving to us. This will help women's cricket in a big way,” she said.

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