Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana: The torch bearers of Indian women's cricket at WBBL
Two of India’s brightest stars have been lapped up by women’s Big Bash League. Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana, the young brigade of India, will find themselves rubbing shoulders with the ‘who-is-who’ of international cricket come the 2nd edition of the WBBL.
Given the flamboyance and mettle displayed by Harman (fondly called as Harry) and Smriti in India’s hugely successful tour of Australia, it has come as no surprise that the two have been picked ahead of their more illustrious colleagues in Mithali Raj and Julan Goswami.
Although I have little acquaintance with the two, I had the pleasure of catching up with Harry on the occasion of India’s historic 500th Test match at Kanpur. She was gleaming, looking fit and ready to enter into a new era of the women’s game.
It seemed like she was preparing well, for what is going to be a historic first for an Indian woman cricketer; she has now been joined by the latest sensation in Indian cricket - Smriti Mandhana. The two form the core of India’s future and it was inevitable that Harry and Smriti where the first cherries (if I may say so) to get picked out of a whole bunch of other good ones.
The rise and rise of Harmanpreet
Playing at a fast clip comes naturally for Harmanpreet Kaur; after all in her very second knock in international cricket, she hoicked the first ball she faced over mid-wicket for a six; announcing her arrival with a bang in a World Cup game against Australia, Harman has not looked back ever since. She has gone from strength to strength, lending much vitality to the Indian spine, which was otherwise heavily dependent on India’s ‘one and only’ Mithali Raj.
I had the good fortune of watching Harry tick off a century against Bangladesh, while I was the Technical Advisor there, and she hit some effortless sixes which went soaring into the stands – for a woman cricketer that’s big!
She has gone on to play quite a few more stellar knocks against the best in the business, and trust me, they have all been scintillating! So it is of little wonder, that she grabbed the honors. I am confident WBBL will be richer with her introduction.
Just to go back in time, I recollect when Harman first got picked for the Indian Squad everybody was like ‘she has just played senior nationals and she gets picked!’. I guess that one six shut everybody up and to her credit she has now blossomed and matured into a fine young cricketer in the youth of her prime.
When quizzed about what could have clinched the deal (WBBL) for her ahead of the rest of her colleagues, she is of the opinion that the Australians have been tracking her cricket off late and have taken notice of the relative ease and flair with which she goes about her business in limited and shorter version of the game and her recent success in Australia sealed it for her.
Having made the grade, she is now looking forward to gaining an insight into their training processes, the way they strategize during their meetings, and their mindset prior to a match and also a net session; as she feels there is not much in terms of skill to be developed and most of them are on a level pegging.
Smriti Mandhana is a treat to watch!
Smriti Mandhana first grabbed eyeballs when she notched up a double hundred in a junior national and we were like ‘geeezs that’s big’; and boy has she not lived up to that expression! Madhana has been a revelation ever since and it was only a matter of time before WBBL notched her up.
Her century on Australian soil recently against Australia must have been the clinching factor; not to forget her exploits against England in England, where she landed India a historic Test series win.
Although I have been formally introduced to Smriti, I have hardly struck a conversation with her. Having said that, I do follow her pretty closely and it is no secret ladies & gentleman that Mandhana Smriti is a treat to watch!
Very pleasing on the eye, the southpaw has lent a lot of fortitude to Indian batting line up in the recent past. It looks well balanced now with Smriti at the top, followed by Mithali in middle and shepherded down the line by Harry.
It is noticed that Smriti is at ease with pace and bounce and so WBBL should be an ideal platform for her to be exhibiting her skills; especially her back-foot play. Knowing Smriti, she must have got down to the brass tacks, honing her skills for the WBBL and also the upcoming home series against the West Indies. Although she had a relatively quite WORLD CUP by her standards, I am confident she is waiting to come in the forthcoming season.
Sudha Shah, the Indian team coach when the two ladies made their debut, has seen them from close quarters and tells me that Mandhana’s work ethics are of the highest caliber and that she is unfazed with what is happening at the other end, having a game plan and a mind of her own; confident of tackling whatever is thrown at her. While Harry she feels is loaded with guts, gives her 100 % all the time and a very useful cricketer to have.
All this augurs well for India and one feels that the image of Indian women cricketers are in able hands and how these two go at the WBBL will largely influence how the rest are perceived on the international stage.
Talking of India cricket in particular, although we have had some good wins of late we are still struggling when it comes to the Championship table. From the look of things, a series with Pakistan seems unlikely, which would mean forfeiting points. If that were to happen, it would sound a death knell to our chances of qualification.
Any which way, Indian cricket needs to rise in the eyes of its fans, given the recent debacle at the T20 World Cup and a lot will be riding on the strength of Harry’s form and the young shoulders of Smriti if India are to, along with Mithali & Julan, rise from the ashes.
Mamatha Maben is a former captain of the Indian Women's Cricket team. She has been a journalist and has had successful stints as coach of the national women's teams of Bangladesh and China. She is currently the Chief Coach at RXCA and also assists at the KSCA academy.