Why she matters: Former world No. 1 batter, the youngest captain of the Indian cricket team (men’s and women’s), the highest bid at the Women’s Premier League (a whopping Rs 3.4 crore!), and the holder of several records… There are accolades galore to Mandy’s name—and all at just 27! She shares what it’s like to be one of the best-known faces in women’s cricket worldwide!
HELLO!: You’re associated with terms like ‘highest run-getter’ and ‘World No. 1 in the ICC women’s ODI rankings’ (2019). But how would you describe yourself ?
Smriti Mandhana: “Simple and honest describe me best. They resonate with my personality as I’m a pretty simple person, and I always consciously work towards honesty.”
H!: You’re the only woman to have won the coveted ICC ‘Women’s Cricketer of the Year’ Award twice, besides Ellyse Perry. How does that honour feel?
SM: “Back in 2007, I saw a newspaper article about Jhulu di (Jhulan Goswami) winning this award, and it became a dream for me. It was a huge privilege to win it twice (in 2018 and 2021), but that certainly didn’t make me feel complacent. Instead, it motivated me to perform even better, for it’s one of my biggest achievements.”
H!: Do you believe support for women in sports has improved in India?
SM: “In the past seven or eight years, women have grown immensely in sports, not just cricket. Female athletes are doing wonders for India, winning us medals and trophies, and becoming household names. For us, I think since 2017, it went from people knowing that a women’s cricket team exists to appreciating and criticising us as much as they do the men. It’s been quite the transition… In terms of pay, the BCCI recently announced pay parity in our match fees, which sets a precedent worldwide because it comes from a country like India, where the sport has always been dominated by men… We’ve progressed, but there’s still a long way to go. Hopefully, women will continue to keep getting support and growing in all sports to attract even more participation from across India.”
H!: Third most 90s in a career in WODIs, most 50s in women’s T20 internationals… These are the kind of records you’ve claimed. Has making such records become the norm, or does consistency matter more?
SM: “I just found out about some of these records through your question! I think more than that, performing for India and being consistent is what I focus on, and some records come along the way. That’s, of course, great, but what matters for me is how many matches I can win for India.”
H!: Do you feel the pressure of being looked up to as an icon worldwide?
SM: “It’s more of a responsibility to showcase the best version of yourself, rather than faking it. You wouldn’t want anyone to be looking up to the wrong things… It’s important to send out a positive message for all those who follow women’s cricket.”
H!: How vital is it to maintain a brand presence? Does relevance today extend beyond talent on the field?
SM: “I can’t speak for everyone else, but I surely don’t stress about it. I believe in working as hard as I can as a cricketer and as a person outside the sport, to be a better version of myself both on and off the field. Having a brand presence doesn’t really matter because people eventually look at how we perform. The rest takes care of itself.”
H!: How do you handle losses and stay motivated?
SM: “Well, for me, the only way forward is to set goals for the next series and aim for my next achievement. I try to set smaller weekly or monthly goals to work on, which helps keep my mind diverted and also keeps me motivated.”
H!: Do your father and brother, both former cricketers, still influence your career?
SM: “They definitely do. When I return from a tour, we discuss everything, the good and the bad… This conversation relaxes me and makes me forget about the tour and move on. I look forward to these chats after every series.”
H!: Yours was the highest bid at the Women’s Premier League auction. How did it feel to know how much you were wanted?
SM: “We were all a little nervous as we didn’t know what to expect, or if any team would really bid on us. More than being the highest bid (though it was the cherry on the cake), I was happier to see what we had achieved in women’s cricket. The auction reflected how excited all the teams were for the tournament.”
H!: Your advice to young aspiring women in sports...
SM: “I’m not great at giving advice, but I can say one thing: try to enjoy every moment. I’m always eager to improve my game, even if it’s by just 1 percent. I go into any session, at the gym or at the practice nets, with that mindset and enjoy it as much as I can. It reminds me of why I started playing because in professional sport, you tend to forget to enjoy the game. I want to keep this with me for as long as I can to enjoy my own batting till I retire.”
To see who else is on the list, grab the copy of HELLO! India’s August 2023 issue right here!