In a historic moment for women’s cricket in India, Indian batswoman Smriti Mandhana became the only Indian cricketer to be named in the first ever ICC Women’s Team of the Year 2016. The 12-member team will be led by Stafanie Taylor, who led the West Indies to their maiden ICC Women’s World Twenty20 title in India earlier this year. The women’s team of the year has been added to the list of awards to acknowledge and appreciate the outstanding performances of women cricketers over a 12-month period.

The second Indian after Harmanpreet Kaur to represent India in Australia’s Women’s Big Bash League, 20-year-old Smriti Mandhana turned heads during her Australian tour, where she scored 157 runs in the three One-Day Internationals, including a maiden century. She also played a crucial role in India’s historic T20 series against the Aussies

Currently a key batswoman in the Indian women’s cricket team, Smriti Mandhana was just nine when she was picked for Maharashtra’s Under-15 team. Her elder brother Shravan, an aspiring cricketer, used to play for Maharashtra Under-16s and had made a name for himself on the domestic cricket scene. He made it as far as Maharashtra Under-19s before the pursuit of academic excellence resulted in a promising career coming to a halt. He is now employed with a private bank as a branch manager.

Whenever Shravan used to play at any tournament, little Mandhana used to tag along with her father to watch him play. Back then, Shravan’s prolific form used to ensure that his name was printed regularly in the local papers. Mandhana used to carefully cut and collect those clippings. It was her dream to score runs like her beloved elder brother and see her name printed in the papers for excelling at the sport.

Her father, a chemical distributor at a textile company, never said no to Mandhana’s aspirations and used help her practice, her brother went for a net session. Having seen his young daughter face older bowlers with a confidence that belied her age, he was convinced that Mandhana had a future in the sport. Realising that he had little time to personally channelise her talent in the right direction, he put Mandhana under the watchful eyes of Anant Tambwekar, a junior state coach.

Growing up in Sangli, a small town in Maharashtra, Mandhana used to train in the morning before going to school, and then return to practice at the nets in the evening. At 11, Mandhana was fast-tracked into the Maharashtra Under-19s side, but an opportunity in the playing XI did not come about for the first two years.


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