Despite fizzling out in the latter half of the 2017 World Cup, Smriti Mandhana was one of the brightest spots in Indian Women's campaign in England. The stylish left-handed opener had admitted that she was striving for consistency after the team's heart-breaking loss to England in the World Cup final. At the fag end of, what Mandhana describes as “one of the longest streak of continuous international cricket”, the girl from Sangli in Maharashtra has emerged as the brightest spot over the last two months.
Mandhana has been India's highest run-getter this season, in both the limited overs' formats. Be it in seam-friendly conditions in South Africa, in February, or the flat decks offered during the one-dayers against Australia in Vadodara and the tri-series in Mumbai, or the rank turner during the ongoing one-day series against England, Mandhana has succeeded in all conditions and against variety of opposition bowlers.
Over the last two months, Mandhana has tallied 478 runs in eight ODIs at 59.75, with five 50-plus scores, including a big hundred in South Africa. She has been equally impressive in T20s, tallying 343 runs in eight innings, at an average of 49.
During the tri-series against England and Australia in Mumbai, Mandhana was ruing the fact that she gifted the wicket too often. However, the articulate batter was delighted to make the “mental adjustments” in the first two ODIs against England in Nagpur, scoring 84 and 42 in the first two games, respectively.
“I have been working on the mental aspect with Tushar sir (head coach Tushar Arothe). I keep talking to him about how to avoid lapse in concentration. It's the basic stuff that I am trying to revert to. For instance, taking a fresh leg-guard after every drinks interval or after reaching a 50. It gives you a sense of starting a fresh innings,” Mandhana said ahead of Thursday's series-decider against England.
“He (Aorthe) has also been advising on taking some time off and tapping the pitch, in case I start feeling that I have started losing concentration. I have been doing it and it's working for me in the 50-over format. In T20s, you can't really take so much time for yourself, but here you can take some time off.”
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With the series hanging in balance, Mandhana hoped that the Indian batters will click as a group, something that hasn't happened on turning pitches in Jamtha in the first two games. “Two or three should click together as batters. Especially on this wicket, it's important for someone, who has managed to play 25-odd balls, to go on and play a long innings, because any new batter will find it hard to get going on such turning tracks. You can't really convert a good ball into a scoring shot on such a pitch, so you have to wait for the loose ball and capitalise on it,” she said.
“First match, I got the team close, but in the last game, I was disappointed because 42 is not a score to get out on. Once you get into double digits, you have to make it count by scoring an 80 or a 100.”
The teams (from):
INDIA: Mithali Raj (Capt.), Harmanpreet Kaur (Vice-capt.), Smriti Mandhana, Deepti Sharma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Dayalan Hemalatha, Veda Krishnamurthy, Devika Vaidya, Jhulan Goswami, Shikha Pandey, Pooja Vastrakar, Ekta Bisht, Poonam Yadav, Sushma Verma, Rajeshwari Gayakwad.
ENGLAND: Heather Knight (Capt.), Tammy Beaumont, Kate Cross, Alice Davidson Richards, Sophie Ecclestone, Natasha Farrant, Katie George, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Amy Ellen Jones, Anya Shrubsole, Bryony Smith, Natalie Sciver, Fran Wilson, Danielle Wyatt.