Cricket / news

'I never thought I'd hear people say they felt threatened to bowl to me'
Smriti Mandhana is breaking records and winning awards all over the place. She speaks about her miracle year and what it has taken to get where she has INTERVIEW BY ANNESHA GHOSH | MARCH 4, 2019 India's Smriti Mandhana has had a prolific 14 months. She was named the ICC Women's Cricketer of the Year and the ODI Cricketer of the Year, bagged an Arjuna Award, became the first Indian to play in the Kia Super League, in the UK, and signed for a new franchise in the WBBL. Ahead of her maiden stint as India captain, the 22-year-old opening batsman spoke about life on the field and off it, and what the future holds for her and an Indian women's team in transition. You became No. 1 in ODI batting at the start of 2019. How would you describe the big, brilliant, breakout year that was 2018? It was a good year personally. It taught me a lot of stuff, through ups and downs. It taught me everything: how to handle good scores, how to handle bad scores. I used to always feel that I need to be consistent, so I had a point to prove to myself. The kind of responsibility which I was able to take for the team, that was quite pleasing. Playing with responsibility is something I didn't believe I could do earlier. But 2018 made me believe that. What do all the awards, along with the fact that you are the world's No. 1 ODI batsman, mean to you? I got to know [of the ICC Awards] from my Hobart [Hurricanes] media manager, because the ICC wanted a short interview. I'm not expressive, and I don't get excited easily, but for 10-15 minutes I got really excited about this. My mom was in Hobart and I was travelling with the team in some other city, so I put my mom, dad, who was in our [textile] factory [in her home town, Sangli, in Maharashtra], and my brother on a conference call. I called each one up and said, "Hold". They weren't able to understand what was going on. My brother, being a brother, said, "Arre! Kaise mil gaya yeh tujhe?!" [How did you get this?!] But mom and dad were very happy. I called up Tracy [Fernandes, the India team physio] ma'am also. Then I called up my school friends. Generally, I'm not someone who'll call up people to say, "Look, I have done this and that." They get to know from Instagram and later they tell me. For 15-20 minutes, it felt really different. And after 20 minutes it was okay. Maybe before sleeping again I got a bit excited for ten minutes. So 30 minutes of excitement overall. (laughs). But that [Cricketer of the Year] award actually had a huge impact on me because till the end of the year, during the Big Bash, my body was feeling very fatigued. If you look back, for one and a half years I have not got a break. So from about 21st to 25-26th December, I had got into a kind of zone where I was telling myself, "I need rest." I didn't feel like going and practising, which is very rare. I had to literally push myself to bat, push myself into the gym. But as soon as that news came out, I read it and I was like, "You have to get better. You can't be stagnant." That news motivated me, and the next day I was back to normal: had breakfast, back to practice, wanting to do gym, wanting to do