It was hardly a surprise that Storm, the 2016 runners-up and 2017 champions in the Women's Super League, secured Mandhana’s services for 2018, making her the first Indian to play the annual Twenty20 tournament. After all, she has been one of India’s stars in recent times, No.4 in the ICC Women’s ODI Rankings for batters and No.13 in the corresponding list in T20I cricket.
But scores of 48, 37, 52*, 43*, 102 and 56 in her first six innings of the tournament, which have made her the big hero in a team boasting batters like Heather Knight, Stafanie Taylor and Rachel Priest, has exceeded expectations.
The latest big effort came against the Diamonds, who rode on Lauren Winfield’s 48 and Beth Mooney’s 69 to put up a solid 172/5. But with Mandhana scoring 56 with five fours and three sixes, and Priest (37) and Knight (45*) chipping in with useful contributions, it took Storm 19.2 overs to seal a seven-wicket win.
Just for a spot of perspective on how well Mandhana has done so far, here are some numbers:
Top-scorers in the three editions of the WSL
2016: Stafanie Taylor (Storm) – 289
2017: Rachel Priest (Storm) – 261
2018: Smriti Mandhana – 338*
Note: Both Taylor and Priest played six innings apiece in 2016 and 2017 respectively
If Mandhana continues to go the way she has so far, she is quite likely to set the bar extremely high, which will take some doing on the part of the other batters to top, whether this season or later.
“The team is full of confidence at the moment. The way we’re going about our cricket is really pleasing. The top of the order is obviously going very well, Smriti in particular,” said Knight after the latest win.
“Smriti’s just effortless. She’s so pleasing on the eye, keeps it simple and hits it straight. Everything is going her way at the moment, even those ones that fall into gaps.”
First Published: August 6, 2018, 9:06 AM IST