Smriti Mandhana at Red Bull Campus Cricket 2022 India Finals
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Cricket

Smriti Mandhana: “I only played one year of school cricket”

The India women’s team opening batter urges cricket organizers to conduct more school and college tournaments, in conversation with Snehal Pradhan.
Written by Snehal Pradhan
5 min readPublished on
Smriti Mandhana and I both played for the same state team, Maharashtra, and one of my first memories of her is knocking her off stump out of the ground in a match simulation.
Of course, she was probably just 13 years old at the time. In the years since, I’ve had the pleasure of watching her grow into a world class batter, and had the displeasure of being smashed to all corners in the Maharashtra nets multiple times.
All along, one thing that hasn’t changed is her cheerful demeanour. A smile is never far from her face, especially when she’s batting (and batting well). It’s made her something of a fan favourite.
“People ask me how can you always smile after a shot!?” Smriti says. “I don't think and smile! If I would've thought and smiled, I would have not played that shot – the smile would have played on my mind! So it's not conscious. You've seen me from when I was 12 or 13, it's just that I am that person who likes to enjoy! Of course there are things that I have to get angry about, it does happen, but 80% is a smile.”
Smriti and Snehal meet the women's finalists at Red Bull Campus Cricket
Smriti and Snehal meet the women's finalists at Red Bull Campus Cricket
We’re speaking on the sidelines of Red Bull Campus Cricket 2022 India Finals, while watching the final of the second-ever women’s edition of the tournament. It is a cause that Smriti has personally championed.
Before we sat down for this interview, Smriti was shooting off suggestions to Red Bull India on how this tournament can expand, as well as asking what more she can do to make the winning team feel special. As an influential athlete, she is using her voice to give the next generation opportunities that she never got.
“I only played one year of school cricket,” she shares. “When I first joined Red Bull I got to know about the men’s edition of Red Bull Campus Cricket, and I said this is what we need in women's cricket. School time is the perfect age to start. If we have a lot of school and college level cricket, it adds a lot of good quality matches, along with the BCCI matches that we get.”
Snehal Pradhan at Red Bull Campus Cricket
Snehal Pradhan with player of the match Anamika Kumari
Player of the final Anamika Kumari, who scored 60 off 54 for Ranchi’s Marwari College, validated Smriti’s belief. Anamika spoke about how useful this tournament is for a player like her who is on the fringes of her state team.
Marwari College beat defending champions Rizvi College from Mumbai in the final, highlighting the talent pool that exists outside the major cities. Smriti herself grew up in Sangli.
“The numbers have gone higher from the time our visibility has gone higher, so even if it increases in school and college level it will keep growing,” Smriti says. “I think Red Bull is doing an amazing job at growing this, it's something that I'd asked them to do from the first year [I started working with them] and I’m so glad it's happening now.”
Smriti Mandhana at Red Bull Campus Cricket
Smriti Mandhana with winning team Marwari College, Ranchi
The Smriti Mandhana I knew as a teenager hasn’t changed much, yet is different.
Smriti is now a well-travelled 25-year old, having played T20 leagues around the world. This has given her a chance to pick the brains of some legends of the game.
“Recently, I met Charlotte Edwards (former England captain and now coach of Southern Brave, who Smriti played for in The Hundred). We had amazing conversations about cricket and it just kept flowing. Not necessarily about batting, but just how the mind-set works, what is needed to stay on the pitch. We were talking about how form works, do we believe in that word called ‘form’. Or is it actually touch, not form? If you're feeling good in the nets, you're good,” she says.
Smriti Mandhana presents an award at Red Bull Campus Cricket
Smriti Mandhana presents an award at Red Bull Campus Cricket
Smriti returned home early from The Hundred last year, missing the knockout rounds so she could spend some time with family ahead of a long tour of Australia. It is an example of the more balanced person she has become.
“Pre-Covid I was like ‘cricket cricket cricket’. But then the pandemic phase came, and the whole world changed. That time I actually spent time with family, and I feel I have changed massively as a person.
“Now I will try and take care of myself even more, consciously. If I feel like meeting my parents, regardless of my schedule, I'll make sure I go to Sangli, and spend a day or two with them, because that will make me happy. And those two days actually sustain me for two months,” she says.
The decision was clearly a good one, as Smriti scored a pink-ball Test century, as well as a century in the Women’s Big Bash, while touring Australia.
“So in those things, I've become a better person post-Covid. Other than cricket also, I always think about all these things, like how do I keep myself stress free.”
Now vice-captain of the Indian women’s cricket team in all formats, Smriti has a big year ahead with the Commonwealth Games and a T20 World Cup on the horizon. If she can keep herself cheerful and stress free, it will be good news for India.
Snehal Pradhan is a former India cricketer and now a broadcaster and sports writer. She makes cricket coaching videos on her YouTube channel Cricket With Snehal.