Smriti Mandhana’s batting is characterised by brevity. The movement is measured, the energy expended to strike the ball is economical, precision is prioritised over power. Sometimes, all she does is a little push and the ball hurries to the boundary like an unleashed dog. This unassuming yet eye-pleasing work with the willow at only 19 caught the eyes of the limited followers of Indian women’s cricket team when they won in England and Australia a couple of years ago. She then suffered an ACL injury in the Women’s Big Bash League and had to undergo surgery and strenuous rehab to be fit on time for the World Cup.
With a sublime 90 and an unbeaten hundred, she got India’s campaign to a great start in last year’s Women’s World Cup, in which the team finished runners-up. Young Smriti was the toast of the town.
Then, all fell down. Smriti’s scores in the rest of the tournament: 2, 8, 4, 3, 13, 6, 0.
Smriti then recovered to captain India Blue to the Challenger Trophy in January. And, in South Africa she made 84 and 135 in the first two ODIs contributing to India’s series triumph and looked in good touch for most of India’s run in the Rainbow Nation.
Back among the runs, full of confidence and looking ahead, Smriti spoke on her batting stance, her favourite shot and more in a recent interview to bcci.tv.
On her batting stance
When we got off after the World Cup, I had to change a bit of my technique and get into open stance because a lot of coaches told me that I am more of an off-side player and told me to watch the ball with both eyes. Because I used to watch with one-and-a-half eyes because of my closed stance. So, I went back to Sangli [her hometown], worked with my coach and tried to come into open stance and it really helped me. That suited my batting. I continued with it and it gave me results.
On her favourite shot
As a batsman, you always love playing cover drive. That’s the thing for me also. I just used to play cover drives as a kid. I’d play 200, 300 cover drives. I didn’t like any other shots. But later on, I had to develop all the other shots.
On people’s expectations
I think people are expecting from you because you have done good things in the past. I think you should enjoy that pressure and... actually, we play cricket for ourselves, not to show people. I play cricket for myself. And making India win is the real aim. Other things don’t really matter.
On post-World Cup attention
After the World Cup, we all knew that everyone’s going to watch us. Each team member has put in the hard work to get fit. Not that we didn’t work hard earlier but now we know that people are going to watch us. Everyone is working hard. I have worked hard on my fitness and batting. I am happy with it and hopefully will continue in the same form throughout the year..
On cricketing goals
One cricketing goal for sure is to win a World Cup. Not one, but many World Cups. This year we have England and Australia coming in. There are like certain goals for the team. It’s like ICC Champions Trophy. Hopefully we win the matches and I contribute to the team. That’s the main goal. I don’t want to complicate things. I just want to go out and enjoy my batting.
On women’s cricket being in the limelight
It’s the right time for women’s cricket to be in the limelight. We did well in the World Cup. If people are watching us, it will motivate us to do better. People watching and appreciating or criticising will help our team. This is the right time for people to watch women’s cricket.
On the tour of South Africa
It was a good learning experience for me playing in South Africa for the first time. Started off really well with an 84 and a century. Third match I didn’t score well. That’s something I can look back... When I am scoring runs, I should make all the matches count. Even in T20s I have got good starts but haven’t converted it. So these things I have to work on.
Correction: The original version of the article said Mandhana suffered the ACL injury after the World Cup instead of before the World Cup - it has now been corrected.