Smriti Mandhana
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Cricket

Smriti Mandhana: “Bubble life brought us closer as a team”

The Indian women’s opening batter speaks about her successes and favourite moments of 2021, and what she is looking forward to the next year.
Written by Deepti Patwardhan
7 min readPublished on
Smriti Mandhana made her India debut at the age of 17 and has been part of a huge transformation in Indian women’s cricket.
Among the latest milestones she has been part of was the Indian women’s team’s first pink-ball Day-Night Test match as part of India’s tour of Australia in September-October 2021.
Smriti rose to the occasion by scoring 127 – her first hundred in Test cricket. The knock saw her become the first Indian women’s player to score centuries in ODIs as well as Tests in Australia. She was also adjudged the player of the match.
Here she speaks about that experience, her other takeaways from 20221, and what she is looking forward to.
Indian opening batter Smriti Mandhana
Smriti Mandhana
01

How do you look back to your century against Australia in the Day-Night Test?

It was an amazing experience. When they announced that the Test match was going to happen, about eight or nine months back, I was pretty pumped. I never thought I would be able to experience a D/N Test. When they announced the Test, I ordered pink balls for myself and was going to practice. But I didn’t get to practice, they were just with me for four months in my luggage.
To actually go out there and get a hundred and put my team in a good position, when the opposition has actually put you in to bat, that was a great feeling.
02

How was your experience of playing pink ball cricket?

It was an amazing experience. Especially to watch our pace bowlers in those D/N conditions, swinging around and beating the Aussie batters. When I was batting I didn’t feel much (of a difference). Because when you are batting, you don’t notice the lights etc. But when you are fielding, you look around, the atmosphere is amazing, and you are playing a Test in whites at night! It was something we had only seen on TV, watching the men’s matches. I hope we get to do that quite a lot.
03

You are the first Indian woman to score hundreds in Australia in Tests as well as ODIs…

I actually didn’t know when I scored the century; I didn’t know that I am the first to do so. I think Australia has great batting wickets and as a batter if I don’t score hundreds there, it would have been disappointing.
Cricket · 9 min
Cricket Challenge with Smriti Mandhana
04

You play a lot of One-day and T20 cricket. What is the mental and physical preparation you need for Tests?

I thought I would be playing in a different way in the Test format, and thought I was going to take a lot of time. But I actually ended up being on 35 runs in 30 balls. I saw the scoreboard and told myself, ‘Smriti it’s a Test match, start playing slow!’ Jokes aside. Before the Test match, I wanted to be as calm as I could be. It was about just waiting for a bad ball; that was the kind of mind-set I had.
In T20 and ODIs I would go for my shots, in Test format I was trying to wait for balls which are in my area and not try and convert everything. That was the one thing I told myself, don’t just hurry into shots.
05

What have been your highs and lows of 2021?

The best was the Australia tour. Winning the Test match would have been another feather in the cap. Personally, the worst was the second Covid wave. Being at home and watching the way people were suffering was quite a lot.
06

What are the challenges of playing tournaments in a bubble?

I think bubble life is something which we had not even thought we would experience; like not going out in between matches just to relax – that was something we used to do to get away from cricket for a bit. We used get maybe two days off. Now even in that time we are around our teammates and around cricket because we are in a bubble.
It’s a challenge where you don’t actually get to switch off. The positive is we have gotten closer as a team. Now we know we are going to stay in a bubble for 45 days, so we have each other’s back. For me the biggest challenge was not getting to switch off in between matches. Sometimes you don’t bat well and you just want to go away from the hotel, may be go to a movie. That’s what I found tough in the bubble.
Cricket · 4 min
Smriti Mandhana interview with Jatin Sapru
07

The Women's Big Bash League has laid down the marker for women's T20 Leagues. When do you see a similar tournament being held in India?

Big Bash and the 100 has been a big success for Australia and England. This is the seventh year for Big Bash and we have seen the kind of transformation and the kind of advantage the Aussie women’s team have because of Big Bash.
In the series against us, there was a girl called Tahlia McGrath came in. Everyone thought it was her second or third series. But she was a standout performer because she had six years of experience of Big Bash cricket and she was a top scorer for her team there. That experience made a lot of impact when she came into the national team. I’m sure it’s going to help a lot if we start a women’s T20 league in India. The BCCI is working on it.
08

How has women’s cricket grown in India since you first took to the sport?

When I started, we didn’t have much. There would be 200-300 boys playing and I was the only girl. Even when I debuted for India at 17 people didn’t know about it. When I used to say I play cricket, people used to say, ‘Oh ladkiyon ki bhi team hai?’ (There’s a women’s team as well?) There used to be lot of question marks.
But things have changed in the last four years. People not only know there’s an Indian women’s cricket team but they also know our schedules, they follow our performances, and we get criticized also, which is a great thing.
Indian women's cricket team opening batter Smriti Mandhana plays a shot.
Smriti Mandhana
09

How much do you think Red Bull Campus Cricket for women has helped?

The first interaction I had with the Red Bull team I asked them, ‘Why don’t we start a women’s edition of Red Bull Campus Cricket?’ And now two years later they have done it. I think it’s going to change a lot of things for college girls. During my time, I don’t think there was any college which had a women’s cricket team.
I’m sure because of Red Bull Campus Cricket a lot of more colleges are going to think, ‘We want to win that,’ and start a women’s team for their college. That will help the domestic structure for women’s cricket. Going forward it will have a lot of advantages for the Indian women’s cricket team. We may not get to see the impact in a year or two, but maybe four to five years down the line.
10

What is your take on five-day Tests for women, which was approved by the BCCI recently?

In Australia, if we had a fifth day, we would have ended up winning the match. Nowadays the weather is so unpredictable. If you are losing about 80% of even one day, getting a result in three days is almost impossible. Maybe you need to give a green grassy wicket for that! But for the kind of wickets we have now, five-day Tests would be pretty cool. I just want to play as many Tests as possible, four or five days doesn’t matter that much.
11

How are you preparing for the 2022 Women’s Cricket World Cup?

I have set myself small targets – fitness-wise and batting-wise. Australia and England tours were very important for us for team preparations. Playing the top two teams before the World Cup has given us a lot of confidence, even though we lost the series. That experience is going to help us a lot. Also, we play New Zealand before the World Cup. So we will end up playing the top three teams in the span of six months before the World Cup. That’s the kind of preparation we need. Personally, I just want to go out and do what I’ve done for the last three years and not think about the fact that it’s a World Cup.