Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) franchise Sydney Thunder have roped in opening batter Smriti Mandhana and all-rounder Deepti Sharma as replacements for England duo Tammy Beamount and Heather Knight. They are not available despite the team not touring Pakistan.
The Sydney Thunder hope to defend their title with Mandhana and Sharma in their ranks as able replacements. This marks the left-handed batter's third WBBL franchise following here stints with the Brisbane Heat and Hobart Hurricanes. She has played 25 matches and has scored 407 runs at an average of 19.38.
Deepti Sharma, on the other hand, will compete in the WBBL for the first time. She will be coming into the competition on the back of her success in the recently concluded The Hundred. She was part of the London Spirit in the competition, where she took 10 wickets with an economy of 5.26.
Both players represented Western Storm in the former KIA League in their title-winning season back in 2019.
Mandhana and Sharma join as third and fourth Indian women cricketers in the 2021-22 WBBL after Shafali Verma and Radha Yadav. The Thunder coach termed the duo the perfect replacements for the England players, he said:
"While it's disappointing not to be able to have Heather back, if you could choose any replacement for her it would be Deepti - she's also a star,"
"Smriti is an opening batter who has the tremendous ability to take everything in her stride. I like that she keeps her game really simple; she just wants to score runs."
The 2021-22 edition of the WBBL will commence on October 14 following the end of India's ongoing tour of Australia.
I always look at it as an opportunity to learn: Mandhana
Mandhana, having played a stellar knock in the second ODI against Australia, expressed her delight having availed the opportunity to play on such a platform. She said:
"Playing in overseas leagues gives you a lot of experience, especially in the T20 format. Then, of course, you exchange so much experience with each other . . . with all the players from over the world . . . so you get to learn a lot. Rather than 'pressure', I always look at it as an opportunity to learn, and to get used to that pressure because it only builds when you play international cricket." Mandhana said
Deepti Sharma is also looking forward to her maiden stint in the WBBL. She claimed that while she had received offers before, she could not play with the time not being right, until now. She stated:
"This is my first time [in the WBBL], so I'm excited," Sharma said. "I've had offers before, but I couldn't play at the time because at the time we had [an international] series."
"It's a big thing for Indian women's cricket that we have the opportunity to play in the WBBL. We have to express ourselves in the competition."
The first 20 contests of the 2021-22 WBBL will take place in Tasmania across Hobart and Launceston. The competition will open with Sydney Sixers Women taking on Melbourne Stars Women. Sydney Thunder Women will begin their title defense with a contest against Adelaide Strikers Women.