- Smriti suffered from a knee injury that almost quashed her World Cup dream
- With 90 and 106 not out, she has arrived on the big stage as India eye a semifinal spot
- Smriti’s aggressive ways meant she attained pathbreaking feats even in a short cricketing journey
SANGLI: Smita Mandhana is concerned about her daughter’s wellbeing. Not just because she is her mother, but also because Smriti Mandhana, 20, is playing a predominantly man’s sport in India cricket and has already suffered from a knee injury that almost quashed her World Cup dream.
“Every action of Smriti during her match increases our tension. Not only when she is batting but also while fielding,” said the mother who gets glued to the TV during India’s ongoing World Cup matches at their home in Sangli’s Balaji Nagar area. “There is always fear in my mind which has increased after the recent injury. I feel she should play safely.”
With 90 and 106 not out in the first two matches in World Cup against England and West Indies respectively, she has arrived on the big stage as India’s eye a semifinal spot.
“She always gives her 100% in every match and after she was injured. Her physiotherapist had said that her attitude of giving 100% may not stop her playing after any injury. But her attitude only increases our tension even when she is fielding and running after the ball,” added Smita.
The mother should have prepared herself for this mental stress by now. She had seen her husband and both children (Smriti has an elder brother Shravan) play cricket from the beginning.
“She was a mere three years old when she took a plastic bat in her hand and since then she continues to hold the bat and hit big shots,” said father Shrinivas. “Her style of holding the bat straight and hitting the plastic ball hinted that she had an inclination for cricket.”
Srinivas, a former district-level cricketer and a textile chemical supplier, had dreamed that his son and daughter would make careers in cricket. Smriti has fulfilled that big time in a short span.
“We never forced both of them to choose cricket. After playing some state-level tournaments, Shravan gave up active cricket and joined my business. Smriti continued and is now excelling for India,” said the father.
“We listened to advice from a Matunga cricket club coach in Mumbai. He told us ‘don’t force cricket on her though she has got the talent. Let her play till she enjoys playing and that way she will become a good player’. We followed it and we were not shocked after she was selected to represent Maharashtra at an early age.”
Things were not so easy for the mother though.
“Making up my mind to allow my daughter to choose cricket as a career was tough, especially from a place like Sangli where hardly any girl plays cricket. We asked her to play tennis or badminton, but she was determined to play only cricket and finally we had to accept her wish.
“Initially, it was difficult for me to digest the fact. However, her achievements at a younger age reduced the fear and we started focussing on her career.
“She had never played any other game except cricket. Even as a child, she played plastic ball cricket and had never touched any toy.”
That should serve as music to the ears of former India captain Shubhangi Kulkarni who has always observed that in the majority of Indian households, boys are given bats to play with while girls are given dolls.
Kulkarni, the women’s representative at BCCI and ICC, said: “I first saw Mandhana at an inter-state match at PYC. She came across as a positive and fearless player then. She is confident, has got a variety of strokes and is not getting bogged down by the occasion or opponents’ reputation.
The way she has come back from the injury talks a lot about her mental strength. She has got talent, temperament and skills. It is now really up to her to reach where she wants to.”
Smriti’s aggressive ways meant she attained pathbreaking feats even in a short cricketing journey. Be it a double hundred in a domestic one-dayer or the first player to get the T20 Big Bash contract in Australia.
The top order left-handed batswoman used to practise cricket with boys in Sangli. “This might have developed her into an attacking batsman rather than a defensive one,” said Srinivas.The ongoing World Cup means a lot to Smriti. When she was recuperating from the injury at NCA in Bengaluru, she was least interested in talking about missing Pune’s Test debut in February.
“I have seen a Test match in Australia when I was there for the women’s Big Bash,” said Smriti. “I need to get fit in time.”
Source: Times Of India