Should have stayed until the 20th over - Mandhana

Smriti Mandhana targets the off side Getty Images

It's not hard to tell that Smriti Mandhana has evolved in her twin roles in the Indian side since her up-and-down World Cup last year. On the field, she has done what most of India's other batsmen have failed to do since the start of the South Africa series last month: score runs consistently. Off it, she is approaching the T20I vice-captaincy head-on, by taking responsibility.

On Thursday, following India's fourth straight loss to Australia - a six-wicket thumping in the T20 tri-series opener after being whitewashed 3-0 in the ODIs - Mandhana took sole ownership of a collective failure, instead of sidestepping it. This despite top-scoring for India with an attractive 41-ball 67.

"I am taking that blame on myself, that if I am set and middling the ball well, I should continue, like Mithali [Raj] di does. We have to learn from seniors," Mandhana reasoned, when asked if the repeated failures of the middle order to build on her starts have been a cause of personal disappointment.

"It's very easy to blame others and not put it on ourselves. As a player, it is easy to say that they didn't perform, but the fact is that it is really hard for a new batsman to come and bat, and it is really [important] for a set batsman to play. So it is much easier for me to continue till the 20th over than for the other batsmen to come in and bat."

It is little surprise that while defending the batting line-up's inconsistency, Mandhana invoked the example of Raj, who for much of her career has struggled to find support for her prolific returns at the top of the order.

Since the end of the World Cup, Mandhana has scored more ODI runs - 350 - than any other India batsman, and at a better average - 58.33 - as well. In T20Is, she's been second-best behind Raj in terms of runs and averages, though her strike rate of 148.72 has been far superior to Raj's 109.94.

After successive low scores in the last match of the South Africa tour and the first ODI against Australia, Mandhana has been in rollicking form, clobbering three consecutive half-centuries. After scoring 67 and 52 in the last two ODIs, she made the fastest T20I fifty by an India women player, on Thursday, even as her team-mates, barring Anuja Patil, failed to build on the platform she laid.

"I would have been pleased if I would have continued for 20 overs, and we would have had a good total and eventually won the match," Mandhana said. "I have been timing the ball well, and we [as a team] are not learning from our mistakes from what we had [made] in the one-dayers. Like, I am getting out after getting set. So, that is the takeaway from this match."

The upswing in Mandhana's form this home season has largely coincided with the absence of Jhulan Goswami from India's attack. Goswami is now back after recovering from a heel injury, however, and that could just be the spark India need to rebound from their series of losses to Australia.

In the tri-series opener, Goswami picked up three wickets, and the nature of two of them - knocking back the middle stumps of Alyssa Healy and Ashleigh Gardner - particularly pleased Mandhana.

"It was amazing to see some bowleds of some Australian players. [Goswami] coming back to the team has been a boost to all the bowlers, because they have someone like Jhulu di to guide them.

"We are doing the same mistakes in the bowling unit, one is performing and others are not supporting. As a bowling unit, if there is pressure from both ends then the batsmen will go and try something else. Our bowling unit has to step up and create the pressure which we haven't done in the ODIs."