Smriti Mandhana’s remarkable 2018 form ensures two things.
First, that India wouldn’t have their expectations of consistent scoring sound irrational from a batswoman who doesn’t differentiate between teams when it comes to hitting everyone equally.
And second that should India fancy winning some interesting challenges, starting with the challenging tour to New Zealand, Smriti Mandhana will have to come good.
And it’s all going to be good or so seems from her 2018 form guide.
In fact, 2018 was no less sensational a year for the men’s sport- Jason Holder receiving more respect than usual, now justified by his selection in ICC Test team and the likes of Pant, Curran, Hetmyer, Azam, Markram truly coming into their own even as Kohli dominated overall headlines- than it was for women.
But implicit in this success is the fact that the woman behind ICC World Cup 2017’s famous ton against England, also the face behind Stefanie’s team’s beating in that competition lifted herself to an even pedestal where consistency mattered.
There was perhaps no cricketing continent in 2018 where Smriti Mandhana’s 2018 form didn’t present itself well.
And we know what kind of reception the leftie observes when she gets going. For some reason and there’s no rocket science in it that the boundaries just appear a tad bit shorter and the capability of the bowlers seems fractured, regardless of skill given the shot-making that ensues when Mandhana gets going.
Think this is an over-exaggeration? Very well then.
Against South Africa, in South Africa, in the ODI series, Smriti collected lots of runs from both Kimberley and Potchefstroom. In all, she plodded, there’s no other way to say it, 229 runs including a brilliant 135 at the Diamond Oval, Kimberly from 3 games.
In so doing, the meat of her bat made a bit of a habit to irritate the fielders, the leftie striking 22 boundaries in the series.
Next up, what did we find?
What was interesting albeit a bit upsetting was that even as Australia visited India, with Meg Lanning returning to the scene, it didn’t seem that the hosts were close to subduing a side that’s arguably, the world’s finest limited overs unit, alongside England.
Fans of the women’s game may not exactly remember when were India thrashed so comprehensively by the Aussies at home, right?
Yet, one batswoman kept going. It’s the young star behind the famous earnest smile, Smriti Mandhana, now ICC’s Women’s cricketer of the year, 2018.
Perhaps it may not be wrong to suggest that the batswoman, despite showing obvious weakness against Gardner’s off-breaks, was somehow able to score and consistently so, at a time where Mithali and Harman weren’t able to register a single fifty.
We saw Gardner, Jonassen joining forces to curtail Smriti’s freewheeling form.
They did succeed but well, so did Smriti, in a way.
But even then where Smriti lost her wicket in every each of the three ODI contests to the guile and foxiness of the off-break specialist and the slow-left armer, respectively, the visitors weren’t able to restrict her from scoring 2 valuable fifties.
Her 12 off 25 in the opening ODI made way to better form courtesy a 67 off 53 and that 52 of 42 in the second and third ODIs respectively paved way for a fine comeback.
And then, just when the bowlers of the sport’s most sensational parallel narrative to the men’s game would’ve thought that this was it, Smriti Mandhana reached an extra yard ahead, with quintessential ease.
In her maiden outing with the noted Kia Super League T20 series, held in England, Mandhana, a pick for the Western Storm proved herself to be one.
Given how entertaining Mandhana’s form was in the Kia Super League in 2018, both, the die-hard lover of the T20s, as well as the ardent supporter of the women’s game who doesn’t resort to a bias, may have rued her absence in the final.
Even as a national camp pulled Smriti to focus elsewhere, she lit up the tournament scoring 416 runs from just 8 innings.
27 August 2018 didn’t see trophy holders Western Storm contest with their storm-riser but well, the damage had already been done by a batswoman who was no older than 22.
All of these facets- make Smriti Mandhana at the top of the order a troublemaker for her opponents.
Interestingly, the women’s game, no stranger to exciting all-round bowlers of the class of Perry, Kapp, Schutt, Pandey, with the belligerent hitter, West Indian Dottin doing the damage with medium pacers of late, excites one and all.
Quite simply because the prospect of seeing Mandhana pitted against a world-class pack is about as engrossing as is the keenly awaited World Cup 2019.
So can the ICC Women’s cricketer of the year 2019 continue her hot streak with the bat? Well, for the sake of the game that loves her batting, she must. No?