In Stats: Smriti Mandhana’s Mad Dash From Promising to Pulverising
(This story was initially published on 31 January during India’s tour of New Zealand. It is being republished after Smriti Mandhana’s appointment as India’s T20 captain in the absence of the injured Harmanpreet Kaur.)
At the start of 2018, the Indian women’s team was without an ODI series win outside Asia (discounting Ireland) since the turn of the millennium. The overall victory count was a meagre two – a 2-1 triumph in England in 1999, preceded by success in a one-off ODI in New Zealand in 1995.
That number has doubled inside the last 12 months, with India claiming series wins first in South Africa and now in New Zealand.
Both the victories have been triumphs supplied by a thorough team effort. But both have had one common standout star, who presently holds the mantle of the Women in Blue’s enforcer at the top of the order, and that of the world’s fourth-best batter in the format.
Smriti Strikes The Sweet Spot
Smriti Mandhana in South Africa, 2018: 219 runs, average 73.00, one hundred, one fifty.
Smriti Mandhana in New Zealand, 2019: 195 runs, average 195.00, one hundred, one fifty.
Two series-defining performances, to headline to rare-founded Indian victories.
But what makes it better still, is that the 22-year-old’s displays in these two series are no flashes in the pan – since the start of the previous year, Mandhana has hit the purplest of patches; she’s found the sweetest of spots.
She may have three women ahead of her in the ICC rankings, but in this time-period, the Indian opener stands tall in a league of her own.
At Home, Away From Home
Her shot-making, and the ridiculous ease with which she tends to find the boundary, is of a world-beating ilk. But Mandhana’s greatest strength, arguably, lies in her remarkable ability to pile on the runs in ‘alien’ conditions.
As it is in the men’s game, the environs outside Asia – Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa in particular – have conventionally been a bane to women batters from the subcontinent.
Not so, however, for a southpaw whose career trajectory is rocketing northwards.
With a minimum criterion of five innings played, no Asian batter has averaged over 50 in ODIs played outside the continent – Mandhana, meanwhile, manages to score nearly 57 runs every time she bats outside Asia.
All four of the opening dasher’s ODI centuries, in fact, have come in the aforementioned ‘tough’ countries.
Smriti Mandhana’s ODI Hundreds
- 102 vs Australia, Hobart, Feb 2016
- 106* vs West Indies, Taunton, Jun 2017
- 135 vs South Africa, Kimberley, Feb 2018
- 105 vs New Zealand, Napier, Jan 2019
Mandhana’s comfort when batting away from home places her in an elite category in the history of the women’s game.
Road Ahead: Succeeding India’s G.O.A.T.
The differentiator between the ‘very good’ and the ‘greats’ is excellence over a sustained period of time, and that is the next step for Mandhana. For inspiration, she need only look at the woman who often follows her up at the crease – Mithali Raj.
The Indian captain presents a compelling case to be considered the greatest of all time in the women’s game, leave alone India’s finest. It’s a tag the veteran has merited by being among the top performers in the world for large periods of a two-decade long career.
Mandhana hadn’t turned three when Raj first donned India colours at the international level, in 1999.
So often she’s found her captain succeeding her to the batting crease; in the years to come, the reigning ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year has a shot at succeeding her in the annals of history.
The evidence from the present exhibits enough to be optimistic about the future.