Smriti Mandhana, the India opener, made history this week by becoming the most expensive female cricketer. Journalist Annesha Ghosh profiles the India team's mascot.
It's difficult to tell if Smriti Mandhana's teammates or a group of the 26-year-old batter's ardent supporters were shouting at the sight of the player on Monday.
The excitement surrounding the inaugural Women's Premier League (WPL) player auction, a first-of-its-kind event in women's cricket, is evident in the video clip.
As the Mandhana bidding war plays out on a big screen during a watch party at the team's hotel, the Indian T20 World Cup squad members in South Africa can be seen in the video cheering, whistle blowing, and screaming.
Mandhana, the first player to be put up for bid, quickly surpasses all other purchases made in the Twenty20 league in price. Royal Challengers Bangalore purchased her for an astounding $413,000 (£340,000) following a tense duel with Mumbai Indians.
The five-side, 23-day competition will begin on March 4 in Mumbai, and she is almost certain to captain the team.
"My son Smriti and I had a casual conversation at our house about the WPL auction before departing for South Africa. According to the batter's father Shriniwas Mandhana, "we predicted she would draw the highest bid.".
"I am a proud dad, not just because my prediction came true, but also because I got to see her go where no woman has gone before. Her name, that bid—these are historic. ".
Because of the foundation Shriniwas gave his daughter in cricket, Mandhana is currently at the top of the list of women's cricket royalty.
Cricket entered Mandhana and her older brother Shravan's lives thanks to his passion for the game.
However, Shriniwas did not end there. Both of his naturally right-handed children were taught how to bat with their left hand because he was determined to give them the best chance to play cricket for India.
In cricket, having a left-handed bat gives anyone an advantage, but this advantage increases if you are from a nation like India where the competition is fierce, according to Shriniwas, a textile industry executive.
Her batting has propelled her to where she is, so looking back, I can only be happy that I made that choice. ".
Mandhana, who bats first for India, has made a total of 6,049 runs from her 193 appearances in international competition across the three formats, including five one-day international hundreds and a Test century.
"She bats with power while also displaying grace and style. She consistently fends off different bowling attacks. According to former cricket player Mamatha Maben, she is also a good student of the game.
Mandhana is a well-known player in the franchise cricket scene who has participated in the Kia Super League, the Women's Big Bash League in Australia, and The Hundred in the UK.
Mandhana began playing cricket when she was around six years old and has accomplished many career milestones since her teen years.
She was widely regarded as a prodigy when, at the age of 17, she became the first Indian woman to score a double century while playing for Maharashtra in under-19 cricket. Notably, she accomplished the feat using a bat that her brother, a former under-19 cricketer himself, received from former India men's captain Rahul Dravid.
Earlier this year, she played against Bangladesh in India in her first limited-overs international match. Mandhana has continued to advance steadily because she is driven by a desire to become a famous cricket player.
Anant Tambwekar, a former cricketer who played for minor counties in the UK and at the university level in India before switching to coaching, recalled that she was a very obedient student when she first came to him.
Since Mandhana's father brought her to him when she was 12 years old, they have worked together. He had previously only served as Shravan's district-level coach in Sangli, the small town that both the Mandhanas and Tambwekar call home in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.
She places her cricket and the discipline needed to succeed and then maintain that success at the front and center of her life, he said, "even after all these years, despite everything she has achieved at such a young age.".
"As women's cricket gains more attention, that is what will fuel the next stage of her career. ".
Indeed, Mandhana has achieved a lot in her ten years of international play. This is especially true since the 2017 ODI World Cup in England, where she was a key player in India's successful run to a runner-up finish.
Then, in February 2019, she became the first batter to ever reach the top of the ICC T20 batter rankings.
She is the only woman to have received this honor more than once, joining Australia all-rounder Ellyse Perry, with whom she will share a dressing room during the Women's Premier League.
She accomplished the feat twice, once in 2018 at the age of 22, when she was also named the ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year, and once in 2021.
Last year, she dominated the T20 run charts among players from full member nations with 594 runs in 21 innings. She was also named to the ICC ODI and T20 Teams of the Year.
Her impressive 2022 run culminated with a Player-of-the-Match-winning 32-ball 61 in India's victory over hosts England in the Commonwealth Games semifinal in Birmingham, where India took home silver.
Her other standout performances from the previous year included an unbeaten half-century in India's successful Asia Cup campaign final and a heart-pounding 49-ball 79 in the second Twenty20 match against Australia in Navi Mumbai.
India participated in its first super over in that match against the current world champions, a difficult challenge that India overcame thanks to Mandhana's constantly improving fearless big hitting.
Over the past six years, her stock has increased quickly both on and off the field.
Mandhana currently boasts brand associations with prominent clients like Red Bull and Nike and has appeared in commercials alongside Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh and cricketing legend MS Dhoni.
She is one of India's most well-known female athletes on social media with a combined following of almost 15 million on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Mandhana may develop into the greatest female cricketer India has yet to produce when the exorbitant WPL price tag is added to the equation.
Sharda Ugra, a sports journalist, describes her as "a different kind of Indian cricket star" who is "stylish in her game, charming, and approachable as a person.".
"She reminds me that cricket is still enjoyable and is still played with joy, which can be lacking when the lads are playing. " .
Sports journalist Annesha Ghosh writes on her own.