Australia has been a happy hunting ground for India opener Smriti Mandhana. It was here earlier this year that the 20-year-old scored her maiden century.
The century and other strong performances during the T20 and ODI series did her a world of good. On the Australian cricketers’ recommendation, Mandhana bagged a contract with the T20 World Big Bash League (WBBL) franchise Brisbane Heat for Season II in December. With this, she became the second Indian woman to bag a WBBL contract after vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur was signed by Sydney Thunder in July.
“I had been in talks with the Brisbane Heat team manager since last month. I also took guidance from Harmanpreet for the signing. It is a wonderful feeling to be selected for a foreign league,” said Mandhana, who made her international debut at 17 against Bangladesh in a T20 match at Vadodara in 2013.
Mandhana had a successful run in the T20 and ODI series against Australia. She believes it helped fetch the WBBL contract as Jessica Jonassen, Holly Ferling and Beth Mooney, part of the Australia and Brisbane Heat outfit, lauded her effort during the tour.
“It was exciting to play on the fast Australian wickets. The fact that we registered our first series win surprised everyone there,” said Mandhana. India won the T20 series against the Southern Stars. She will join Deandra Dottin, the West Indies vice-captain, as Heat’s second international recruit for the season. Mandhana and Harmanpreet had been on the Australian franchises’ radar after the BCCI gave its consent to women cricketers playing in a foreign league.
Mandhana hogged the limelight in 2014 when she hit a half-century in the historic Test win over England in Wormsley. Her love for cricket blossomed when her family moved from Mumbai to Sangli, and grabbed eyeballs when she played for Maharashtra in a U-19 tournament at 16.
With two Tests, 20 ODIs and 20 T20s under belt, Mandhana wants to use the WBBL experience well. “Playing alongside big names would be amazing. The WBBL stint will help me become a better cricketer,” said Mandhana.