Ace batswoman Smriti Mandhana has re-joined Western Storm for the 2019 season of the Kia Super League (KSL), the franchise announced. “Western Storm are delighted to be able to announce that Smriti Mandhana will be returning for the 2019 KIA Super League,” Western Storm said in a statement shared through its official Twitter handle.

The 22-year-old star India opener Mandhana played a key role for Western Storm in the last edition of KSL. “She made a huge impact for Western Storm last year and played a major role in the team making it to finals day for the third consecutive season,” the statement said.

World No. 1 Mandhana, who hails from Sangli district in western Maharashtra, was a leading run scorer at KSL last year with 421 runs at an average of 60.14, including a century. Left-handed Mandhana has so far played 50 ODIs and 56 T20s

“I enjoyed my time with Western Storm last year and I’m looking forward to coming back in 2019. We played some outstanding cricket last year and hopefully we can go a little further this season and lift the trophy,” Mandhana said in a statement.

She was also named the International women cricketer of the year at the CEAT International Cricket Awards 2019. This win comes after her stellar performance at the recently-concluded Women’s T20 Challenge. In April this year, she was also awarded ‘Women’s Leading Cricketer of the Year’ in the 2018 edition of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.

Mandhana knows no defeat

This year, Smriti Mandhana achieved a career-best ranking on the batting list, in the updated ICC rankings. Despite losing 0-3 in the three-match series against England, Manadhana had an extraordinary run-scoring season. Earlier, she was declared ‘Women’s Cricketer of the Year’ by the ICC.

Mandhana, who captained the Indian team while an injured Harmanpreet Kaur took rest, scored 72 runs in the T20I series against England in Guwahati last month. Owing to her performance, Mandhana jumped three spots up to take the third place on the list.

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But it hasn’t been a breezy journey for the cricketer. In 2017, she sustained a knee injury during the Women’s Big Bash League. It altered her approach to batting. “I wasn’t able to walk,” she says. “I spent two months on crutches. I used to feel like not scoring runs, the worst thing in life, but I started thinking, now, at least I’m getting to go out on the field wearing the Indian jersey. Not many get to do that. I am lucky. Now, if I get runs or don’t get runs, I’m just going out there trying to enjoy my cricket.”

Prior achievements

Smriti Mandhana is the first Indian to feature in England’s flagship T20 tournament for women. She scored an unbeaten 52 off 19 balls against Loughborough Lightning, creating a new record.

22-year-old Mandhana is only the second Indian woman to win an International Cricket Council award, fast bowler Jhulan Goswami being the first one, who was named women’s player of the year in 2007.

On her debut, she almost pulled off the fastest 50 in KSL’s history. She smashed as many as five sixes and three boundaries in that innings. Earlier in March this year, she scored the fastest fifty ever scored by any Indian player in women’s T20I cricket. She achieved this in the opening innings against England in the third match of the women’s T20 tri-series at the Brabourne Stadium. Mandhana also created history when she became the first Indian female cricketer to score a double hundred in a one-day game.

Smriti Mandhana also made it to the ‘Forbes India 30 Under 30’ list this year.

In 2016, Smriti Mandhana had become the second player, after Harmanpreet Kaur, to sign for an overseas Twenty20 franchise, the Big Bash League ( BBL). Again in the same year, she became the only player from the country to be named in the Women’s Team of the Year 2016. Mandhana was also a crucial part of the team in last year’s World Cup finals. Considered a favourite in women’s cricket, Mandhana helped India reach the final of the tournament.

Mandhana is joined by teammates Jemimah Rodrigues and Deepti Sharma who will also feature in the fourth edition of the KSL, which is set to commence on August 6.

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