our years ago Smriti Mandhana was a bespectacled 18-year-old embarking on her first tour of England. Nobody knew her name. Now, having become the first Indian to play in the Kia Super League, she is the story of the tournament.Her figures are remarkable: she is already the leading runscorer in any edition of the KSL, with more than 400 runs for Western Storm – the team who represent the south-west of England – at a strike rate of 176; she has also hit the fastest half-century and the most sixes in KSL history, plus this season’s only century.Last week Western Storm live-streamed one of their matches for the first time: 26,000 people tuned in to watch her bat. And today they face Surrey Stars at the Oval in a game live on Sky Sports Cricket from 7pm, when even more are expected.The biggest change in those four years? “Age,” she laughs. “Mentally I’m still the same person. But I’ve learned a lot of things, too.”It has been a bumpy ride for the 22-year-old, who grew up in Maharashtra in India, playing cricket with her father and brother. Catapulted into the India side at 16, having first gone along to local trials for fun aged nine, the past four years have brought their share of failure as well as success. Perhaps the biggest was last year’s World Cup final at Lord’s: India, surprise finalists, came agonisingly close to lifting the trophy before a wonder spell from England’s Anya Shrubsole intervened and they fell 10 runs short of winning.
An experience like that might be expected to leave scars but Mandhana says not. “I only thought about it for half an hour. We had three months off afterwards and I tried to work on making small technical changes. But I’ve definitely left it behind me now.”