Cricketer Smriti Mandhana bats for fantasy gaming platform Playerzpot; looks forward to Women’s T20 Challenge
After almost six months of the lockdown, fans are excited about the Women’s T20 Challenge, which will be held in the UAE from November 1 onwards.
India’s star opening bat and vice-captain of the women’s cricket team, Smriti Mandhana is happy about the idea of returning to the pitch.
“After four months of being at home, it’s good to be back on the field for training,” Smriti says over a phone call.
The lockdown has been rewarding in other ways as well. She teamed up with fellow cricketer, former roommate, and best pal Jemimah Rodrigues for Double Trouble with Smriti and Jemimah, a show that featured a number of sportspeople in conversations full of camaraderie, fun, and some serious questions.
“I understand what it means to be at the other end, interviewing someone. I appreciate people like you all the more,” she says with a laugh.
Smriti also spent a lot of time at home, chilling with her family, playing cards; moments of relaxation that had been next to impossible in the midst of a busy cricketing schedule.
The 24-year-old knew she wanted to be a cricketer and play for India ever since she was five years old. With her brother and father active in the game, almost every conversation at home centred on the game.
“My obsession was so deep that if you’d ask me to wake up at 4 am and bat, I would do it. By the time I was nine, I knew cricket was my calling. When I was selected for the Under-15 Maharashtra team, I realised I would become a cricketer,” she says.
As the youngest girl at her cricketing academy, people showered a lot of love and accorded her special treatment. She says she has been lucky to be given more chances to bat and hone her skills.
In 2013, Smriti became the first woman to score a double century on the domestic circuit. As the opening bat, she says, 200 was far from her mind until she received a message from her coach asking her not to play “rash shots” and aim towards the goal.
This knock catapulted her into the big league and India making it to the finals of the ICC Women’s World Cup in 2017 brought women’s cricket into the forefront, making Smriti, along with the others, stars in their own right.
Women’s cricket gets its due
This was a turning point for women’s cricket.
Smriti, however, is quick to dismiss comparisons. “Why does women’s cricket have to be compared to men’s cricket?” she asks sternly, adding, “Let’s compare it to the growth of other women’s sports like tennis.”
She agrees that the 2017 World Cup was a turning point for the game and for its players. “The event was televised, there was a lot of buzz on social media, brands took interest, and this has helped women’s cricket to grow,” she says.
As opening bat, how does she prepare for pressure-filled situations?
“By not thinking about it. I think batting is reactive unlike bowling. I have been opening in the game since the age of 10 and it’s a real blessing. I just try to be blank, watch the ball, and play accordingly. The only disadvantage is that you don’t know how the wicket is going to play when you are batting first. But I can’t think of playing in any other position,” she says.
Bouquets and brickbats
With women’s cricket gaining popularity, the players are now in the limelight, facing both appreciation and criticism.
“I think every Indian is very sensible and possessive about cricket. If we perform well, they appreciate us, and if we do badly, they really criticise us. It took us around four to five months to get used to it. It’s a responsibility as you are a role model for people out there, and you have to set an example with your performance and your behaviour,” she adds.
But she says the “going has been good so far”. “No pressure. I really enjoy being in those discussions. I know how I can improvise; it makes you more responsible - as a batter, as a person.”
The game’s on
In the midst of all things cricket, Smriti has also found time to bat for fantasy gaming platform Playerzpot as brand ambassador. With over two million users, the portal offers the experience and thrill of fast-paced and dynamic gaming.
“Fantasy gaming is definitely an upcoming trend that has gained huge popularity. It is booming as we speak and that will stay for a long time. I feel its a great space and way for fans to test their skills,” she says, adding, “I hope my presence helps spread the popularity of fantasy gaming amongst women as well.”
Mitesh Gangar, Co-founder, PlayerzPot, is gung-ho about the association with Smriti.
He says, “Gaming has mostly been a male-dominated field. We wanted to promote it in Tier II and III cities among women as well. Who can be a better ambassador than Smriti Mandhana, who has made a mark in a field so far dominated by men.”
From gaming to cricket, Smriti surely has her hands full as she bats for a level playing field.