Pune: Indian cricket fans were still sulking over their men’s team’s humiliating final loss to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy when the Women’s World Cup was just around the corner.
The Indian team, led by Mithali Raj, took the field against hosts England in their tournament opener and one young girl stepped up to the occasion, rising like a Phoenix after recovering from an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury, and dazzled the County Ground in Derby with an innings of 90 from just 72 balls as India defeated England by 35 runs.
In the next match, she ensured that she got a century, scoring an unbeaten 106, in India’s chase of 184 against West Indies. Indian team went on to reach their maiden ODI World Cup final, only to lose the game by 9 runs against England at The Lord’s.
The girl was 21-year old Smriti Mandhana.
Although Indian cricket fans had to deal with another heartbreaking result, the World Cup in England certainly changed the way ‘cricket crazy’ Indian audience looks towards the women’s game, as returning players were given a rousing welcome.
Exactly, a month after players returned home, life has changed a lot for Sangli girl Mandhana and she spoke about it at a press meet in the city.
“The World Cup journey was unreal for me as well as the entire team. We reached the finals, but could not win it, but next time, we will get the Cup,” said the south-paw opener.
“I had never thought our life would change this much and would get to see these days. Nowadays, I cannot roam around freely in Sangli, as people recognise you everywhere,” she said.
Playing the World Cup is a dream for any sports person, and Mandhana thought her dream was over when she suffered an ACL injury playing in Women’s Big Bash League (BBL) in January. Reference of those five months on the sidelines crops up every now and then when she speaks as it has taught her a lot.
“An ACL injury usually takes any athlete out of action for 8-9 months, but the National Cricket Academy, BCCI and my parents supported me as I came through that difficult period,” she added.
The young left-hander idolises Sri Lankan great Kumar Sangakkara for his elegance and looks up to Aussie opener Mathew Hayden for his aggression on the field. If she could follow the path of these two legends, Indian cricket team can be assured of a superstar for years to come, who will end women’s team wait to don the star of the World Cup on their crest.