Smriti Mandhana became only the second player to win the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year Award more than once when she was bestowed with the honour on Monday, and she’s well on her path to becoming one of the greats in the game.
Since the introduction of the ICC awards to reward the best performers of the year, only Ellyse Perry has won the trophy more than Mandhana’s two. Rewarded for her consistent showing in 2021 across formats, the India opener has already claimed a spot among the legends, with the promise of more to come. Mandhana scored a total of 855 runs in international cricket last year in 22 matches at an average of 38.86. She was the only centurion in Test cricket in the women’s game, her knock of 127 setting up the platform for a fighting draw against the mighty Australians Down Under. Not only was it her first-ever triple-digit in the longest format in four Tests, but her score was also the highest by a visiting player in the country, which further displays her calibre and temperament.
Overall, she ended with 244 runs in the format, the most by any player, at an average of 61. However, more than the runs that she piled on it was her attacking intent upfront that left a mark. She took only 51 balls to complete her fifty against Australia, which remains the second fastest recorded half-century in women’s Tests. Overall, she batted with a strike rate of 56.48, the third highest among players with more than 51 Test runs in 2021. Shafali Verma (strike rate of 62.05) and Sophia Dunkley (58.26) were the only players above her. She smashed 43 fours and a six in the four Test innings she batted in, scoring 73 per cent of her runs in boundaries.
Her positive intent was carried forward in ODIs as well, where she scored 352 runs at an average of 35.20 and a strike rate of 86.69. No other women’s batter scored more than 300 runs and struck at a better rate than Mandhana in ODIs in 2021. India won three of the 11 ODIs that they played last year, with Mandhana averaging 75.50 in wins. However, her average dropped to 25.12 in defeats, indicating her overall impact on the side. When she flourished, India had a greater chance of winning, and with an iffy middle-order, the pressure was further increased on the left-hander.
It was in T20Is, though, where Mandhana left the biggest mark. In nine innings, she scored 255 runs at an average of 31.87 and a strike rate of 131.44 with the help of two fifties. No other player from India made more than 72 runs at a better average, and her strike rate was only bettered by Verma’s 134.22 among players who made at least 45 T20I runs for India in 2021. Not only was she the standout player from India in the format, but she was also in the top run-getters list worldwide as well, scoring the second-most runs after Tammy Beaumont among players from Full Members. However, the England player’s overall impact was lessened due to her strike rate of 108.60, whereas Mandhana’s hitting prowess made her a bigger threat.
Overall, the India star was only one of the two players in the world (from Full Members) to average over 30 and strike at more than 130 in T20Is, topping the charts with Danni Wyatt of England, who scored 252 T20I runs in 2021 at a strike rate of 31.50 and a strike rate of 133.33.
She was the lone warrior for her side game after game in the shortest format. India lost six of the nine T20Is they played last year, but Mandhana gave her team starts, scoring 170 runs, only to be let down elsewhere. Mandhana’s knock of 70 off 51 balls in the defeat in the third T20I against England is evidence of the single-handed efforts of the youngster: no other batter from her side scored more than 36, and her scintillating stroke play in tough conditions against the likes of Nat Sciver, Katherine Brunt and Sophie Ecclestone was overshadowed as the middle-order failed to make the most of the start. India eventually posted only 153-6 on the board, losing the game by eight wickets.
Aged only 25, Mandhana already has a plethora of records to her name. She is the fourth-highest run-scorer in ODIs from India, making 2,377 runs at an average of 41.70, which is the second-highest average among women players from the country. She has the second-most ODI tons for India as well (four), and is one of the three India batters with more than 1,900 T20I runs in the game, after Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur. She has already created her legacy in Indian cricket and winning the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Award twice in the span of four years proves that she is ready for world domination as well.