Smriti Mandhana, the India Women opener, has made a habit of achieving new benchmarks, but admitted that she was still trying to make the mental shift to take more responsibility and finish matches.
Mandhana, placed No.1 on the MRF Tyres ICC Women's ODI Rankings for Batters and No.3 on the corresponding T20I player rankings, has led the runs charts since 2018. Her 1018 one-day international runs since January last year have come in 18 matches, at a remarkable average of 67.86 and strike-rate of 90.97. She's also struck 10 half-centuries and two hundreds in that period. No other batter has made more than 700 runs in this time.
Mandhana was handed the added responsibility of captaining India in Twenty20 Internationals, when she led the side in three matches against the visiting England Women last month. The hosts were consigned to a series sweep, and the team's tendency to collapse was again highlighted. But it emphasised for Mandhana what she has seen as her role in recent times: to make sure her good starts translate into victory for the side.
Speaking to Sportstar magazine, the young left-handed batter reiterated that she had changed her game slightly to ensure she was able to stay at the crease longer and not give away her wicket. "The way Virat [Kohli] finishes matches, I would like to take a leaf out of it," she said.
Mandhana's strength is her ability to maintain a brisk strike-rate – she has scored her runs at 134.25 in T20Is since January 2018 – and to clear the ropes with spectacular back-foot play. However, she pointed out: "When you have all the shots in your bag, it can be your strength as well as your weakness."
The way Virat finishes matches, I would like to take a leaf out of it.
Looking to be more selective with her shots, she made tweaks to her game: "The change was mental, rather than technical," she said.
"At a certain point in your career, you need to look at yourself and see where you are. I did that, may be a year-and-a-half or two back, and realised that you can’t be just a performer, you need to be a match-winner for India.
"The focus has been to not be just a batter, [but to ensure] that you don’t throw away your wicket. And also to get the team through. That’s the kind of responsibility you have in your head and you select your shots accordingly. Earlier, I was not that great with shot selection. That had to be changed, and that’s one thing I am still working on."
The accolades have come thick and fast for the youngster – including the ICC Women's ODI Cricketer of the Year award and the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Award for the ICC Women's Cricketer of the Year for 2018. She doesn't see that as additional pressure, though.
"There are days when you don’t feel like doing things. That’s when you think that you have got an award and you need to maintain [a standard]. That gives the motivation to get up and hit the [ground running]."
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