Thanks to her consistent performances, the left-hander was recently named the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year for 2021.
Mandhana beat the other shortlisted candidates, Tammy Beaumont of England, Lizelle Lee of South Africa and Gaby Lewis of Ireland, to bag the award.
855 runs in 22 matches 🔥Five half-centuries 👏Maiden Test century 💯India’s Smriti Mandhana, the winner of the Ra… https://t.co/aPeFQFLan9
— ICC (@ICC) 1643463042000
In 2021, the 25-year-old Mandhana scored 855 runs in 22 international appearances, at an average of almost 39, smashing one century and five half-centuries.
She is the only Indian cricketer to win the ICC Women’s cricketer of the Year award twice. She had earlier bagged the award in 2018 as well. Before her, the legendary Jhulan Goswami was named the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year in 2007.
TimesofIndia.com spoke to two of Smriti’s coaches and found out that preparing as per the conditions, ahead of any tour, is the secret of Mandhana’s success.
“She deserved the award. She worked really hard for it. I have been working with her for the last 13 years. How she struggled in the beginning, how she excelled in a particular shot by practicing it for hours, how she prepared herself for every condition and situation – these are all things she religiously worked on,” Mandhana’s coach Anant Tambvekar told TimesofIndia.com in an exclusive interview.
(Smriti with Anant Tambvekar – Photo: TOI arrangement)
“She practices as per the conditions ahead of a tour. If she is going to Australia, she practices with wet tennis balls. If she is going to the UK, she practices early in the morning because it is pretty cold and windy in the UK. That’s the reason behind her run-making spree. She practices as per the conditions. That’s why she is in the top 10 of the world rankings,” Tambvekar further said.
Tambvekar first met Mandhana about 13 years ago when he was the district coach at Sangli.
“Smriti’s father brought her to me and asked me to coach her. I took her to the nets and found that she was timing the ball really nicely. I was amazed to see her playing those kinds of shots. She was a natural talent. I teach her and learn from her as well,” Tambvekar said.
Mandhana is all set to represent India at the ICC Women’s World Cup, in New Zealand, starting March 4. India will open their campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan on March 6.
Heartiest congratulations @mandhana_smriti on yet another magnificent year in international cricket.Keep giving y… https://t.co/EIDfovWXqK
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) 1643031126000
“Smriti is in brilliant touch. She scored a good amount of runs in Australia and in the Big Bash too. India will have a good run in the World Cup and Smriti will do wonders for India in the tournament. I am really confident that she (Smriti) will be rock solid in the World Cup,” Tambvekar further told TimesofIndia.com.
For Tambvekar, Mandhana is a mix of Sri Lanka batting legend Kumar Sangakkara and former India captain Sourav Ganguly.
“Initially, she was timing the ball like Sangakkara. It was just very similar. Now she is amazing on the off-side and that looks just like Sourav Ganguly’s (style). Smriti is a combination of Sangakkara and Ganguly. Be it timing the ball like Sangakkara or playing wonderfully on the off-side, Smriti is just amazing,” Tambvekar said.
Former Indian women’s cricket team fielding coach Biju George also feels Mandhana gives fans a glimpse of Ganguly when she bats, especially when she hits the ball towards the off-side. George also feels Mandhana is an apt player to replace Mithali Raj, when she retires, as the captain of the Indian cricket team.
(Smriti with Biju George – Photo: TOI arrangement)
“I saw her for the first time in 2014. I was the lead coach of the Under-19 women’s team in Guntur (in Andhra Pradesh). She was as excited (to play) as she is right now. She was a treat to watch. She had the same style. She could pick the ball well and hit it with ease. I still remember she was worried about the pull shot. Raghu (throwdown specialist) and I used to take her indoors and make her play a barrage of short balls. She started playing those balls big and strong. Now, if any bowler bowls a short delivery to Smriti, it will be a six. We used to call her ‘Lady Dada’,” George further told TimesofIndia.com.
“After Mithali Raj, I think she (Smriti) is an ideal captain for the Indian women’s team (ODIs). She is the one who is doing really well in all formats, she is young, she is talented, she is brainy, she is smart and the best part is that she doesn’t get into any controversies. She is ideal captaincy material,” he signed off.