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Smriti Mandhana: The catalyst behind India's white-ball resurgence

Last updated on 20 Jan 2022 | 06:09 AM
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Smriti Mandhana: The catalyst behind India's white-ball resurgence

The southpaw has rejigged the approach of the Indian side in the field restrictions since making her debut

2nd April 2011: Dhoni finishes off in style, Indian lift the World Cup after 28 years. 

These words reverberate in the memory of every cricket fan as MS Dhoni produced a masterclass in the summit clash to help India clinch the World Cup at the Wankhede Stadium. 

A couple of years after this glorious day in the history of Indian cricket, the Women in Blue had a chance to replicate the heroics of their male counterparts and create a revolution for women's cricket in India. 

While the 2013 edition of the Women's World Cup was touted to be a turning point for the players in the nation, the competition showcased glaring issues that were grappling with women's cricket. 

Despite reaching the final of the 2005 World Cup, the Indian team struggled to consistently perform at the international level, resulting in their downfall. 

However, post a dismal outing in the coveted tournament at home, the team management provided youngsters with an opportunity in the following series against Bangladesh at home. 

While the series was fairly one-sided, with India emerging winners after a clean sweep across formats, the Women in Blue gained far more than a trophy as India unearthed a star in Smriti Mandhana amid the chaos. 

Also read: Indian Women's Cricket Team's Mission 2022

At the tender age of 16, when most people contemplate career choices, a teenager was living her dream as she donned the national jersey for the first time in the shortest format of the game. 

With shades of brilliance in the white-ball series, Mandhana showcased her immense talent to ensure she was one of the players to watch out for in the future. 

Well, she wasn't wrong, as India benefited from her aggressive style of play at the top of the order to make optimum use of the powerplay and help the Indian team get off to a decent start in the first 15 overs of the innings. In the matches played from the 2005 World Cup till the 2013 mega event, the opening combination of the Indian side scored at a run rate of 3.1 runs pers over in the field restrictions compared to a run rate of 4.2 after Mandhana's debut.

One of the significant reasons for India's consistent rise at the international level has been attributed to the performances of Mandhana at the top of the order. 

Mandhana has single-handedly shouldered the bulk of the responsibility and emerged as one of the mainstays in the batting unit of the side since 2013. The left-handed batter has scored 2397 runs in 62 innings at a strike rate of 85.3, which is the best among openers with a minimum of 1000 runs in the 50-over format.

Mandhana's rise at the international level prompted the people to stand and witness the class of the youngster as she enthralled the fans with her array of strokes all around the ground. There ain't a better sight in world cricket than witnessing a left-hander piercing the field with strokes all around the park.  

While her consistent performances at the international level were making the noises for the right reasons, the youngster suffered a freak injury competing in the Women's Big Bash League, which ruled her out of action for close to six months. 

With sheer grit and determination, Mandhana bounced back from the setback to stride out for the nation in their inaugural match of the 2017 World Cup. 

While she agonisingly missed out on a scintillating century by 10 runs, she ensured the Indian team got off to a winning start against the home team in Derby. Despite her sublime form in the first two games, including a century against the Windies, Mandhana struggled in the latter stages of the competition with a string of low scores. 

However, the southpaw returned to the basics post the World Cup and rejigged her mojo back with consistent performances that helped the Indian team carve some famous wins at the international level.

Mandhana is sixth in the list of leading run-scorers in the ODIs since the 2017 World Cup, with 1525 runs at an average of 44.85 and a strike rate of 90.1. With a strike rate of 90.1 in this format, she is also third in the list of highest strike rate by a player with a minimum of 500 runs in this time period. 

In the recent past, the southpaw has found an able partner in Shafali Verma at the top of the order. While they set the stage of fire in T20 World Cup held in Australia, the duo continued their sublime run in the ODIs last season. 

After their successful partnership in the World Cup, the world came to an absolute halt amid the pandemic. A year-long hiatus away from the game and the unusual exclusion of Shafali from the ODI series against South Africa at home grabbed plenty of eyeballs. 

However, the duo opened the batting in this format during their tour to England later in the year. In the six innings, they scored 289 runs at an average of 48.1 and a strike rate of 94.8, helping the Indian side lay a solid foundation at the top of the order. 

The dynamic duo are third on the list of most successful partnerships last season, and the Indian team will hope for fireworks from the two in the upcoming World Cup. 

Four years after marking a new beginning for the Indian side in their opening match of the World Cup last edition, all eyes will be on Mandhana to ensure India script history in the southern hemisphere. 

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