Don’t think I’m reminiscing on a useless evening. Today is the day when ‘she’ saw the first sun in her life. And why I’m writing to her, in this very special day is because I like her batting to such an extent that I bunked my college to watch her batting in Eden Gardens in Maharashtra vs. Hyderabad T-20 match on 6th of January, 2016. She is “The Woman” for me just as ‘Irin Adler’ is for “The Woman” for Sherlock Holmes in ‘Scandal in Bohemia’.
I heard ‘her’ name almost three years back for the first time. A ‘lefty’ batter after doing reasonably well in the domestic circuit has made it through the national side. ‘That girl’ with shining eyes behind her specs played an instrumental role in defeating England in their own back-yard. In a lush green wicket, where most of the prominent batters felt cheaply, her determined innings of 50 in the second innings of the match created the foundation, based on which India defeated England in test after 8 long years. That was the sign of emergence of you. In that very series, in the first ODI you were batting on 26 or 27, I don’t remember the exact score but what I clearly remember after years is a cover drive on the 2nd ball of one of the overs of Jenny Gunn. The ball was pitched outside the off stump, right foot of yours came slightly forward, trusted willow seemed to kiss the ball on a perfect moment and the ball raced towards the extra-cover boundary, tearing apart 3 fielders. One can go miles to see that kind of glorious shot.
It was just the beginning of a journey, not for you but for me as well. A journey to make a mark in Indian cricket, to create an example. And in that journey you played many mesmerizing innings. How can I forget those innings of 66 against New Zealand or several half centuries against Srilanka or even your first century against the mighty Aussies?
I’ve been lucky enough to watch all your innings whether the 74 against England or 102 against Australia. You have always made me fell in love with your batting. But many a times I was shattered. There were lots of expectations in the 2016 T-20 world cup but then cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties and I perhaps know too little of it. It was a complete tragedy. Your score in 4 matches were only 27 including 2 ducks. It was a total failure for you as well as for team India.
You failed miserably in the Women World T-20. A gap of 5 months followed and nothing was heard from you. But you came back strong in the Challenger Trophy with amazing 67, 63 and 62*. Your 62* was ordained with 2 4s and 4 6s in the final, leading the way to win the trophy for India Red. Between the failure and the success, you went live on your facebook page to answer several questions from your fans. I asked you two. Firstly, why India disappointed us and which is your favorite innings in ODI?
Honestly speaking, I didn’t expect you to answer those at all. But you did. Then from becoming 2nd player to play in WBBL for Brisbane Heats to injury in your knees while playing, you were not alone who was fighting, I could feel myself in the battle to see you coming back in the national color.
Then came those moments you became the player of the match in your very first world cup against England and West Indies for 90 and unbeaten 106 respectively. And you became the national sensation. Your fan-following almost touched the sky. It seems like they have found a new star from nowhere. But believe me, I wasn’t surprised at all as I am following you since last 4 years or so. I know it didn’t come out of blues, rather you are that fruit of a tree which has been nurtured for years by her family and coach. I felt the shock-wave when you didn’t score. I don’t know how you are feeling right now or what are those thoughts going across your mind today.
May be you were recollecting those day on which you rushed to your mother, holding a newspaper in your hand, and asked her; what are the things you need to do so that your photo might appear in the newspaper just like your brother. And now you can proudly proclaim that you have ticked the right box to cricket from either cricket or acting.
Or maybe your heart was full of gratitude for your family and friends who supported you to chase your dream.
You failed after the first two match in the World Cup. It seemed like your willow has dried up. Those teary eyes after the innings of 3 against Australia depicted all the story. But as you scored a mammoth 224 in just 150 balls in 2013 against Baroda, with a signed bat of Rahul Dravid, gifted to you by your bother, it’s just a matter of time for you to make a comeback. Just as a Proteas raises its head after the devastating fire in African Veldts or just as a phoenix rises from its own ashes, Smriti Mandhana will raise her bat in a sun kissed morning or a rain soaked afternoon, just like that. Don’t worry.
And one more thing, your victory and defeat is not just victory or defeat to you; but surely to me, one of your fans who has witnessed most of your journey from a lane to a highway.
People have started calling you ‘Lady Sourav’. There are so much similarities between you two – the same style of batting, the same cover drives, those elegant sixes over long-on and similarities over specs and contact lenses. And I’m sincerely looking forward for that day when the gallery will scream at your name- Smriti! Smriti! at pitch of their voices, much louder than these days.
Would like to end this with…
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SMRITI MANDHANA!!!!!
– From ‘one’ of your fans who had the privilege of witnessing your journey.
-Suvam Maiti (Watching your game on the internet million miles away)