The defending champions are bottom of the table but have recently found some form
Darlington, aged 19, was named skipper of WBBL defending champions the Sydney Thunder after border closures and a newborn baby prompted the withdrawal of veteran Rachael Haynes.
The Thunder dropped the opening four games of their title defence. They have since posted wins over Hobart Hurricanes and Melbourne Stars, setting up a crunch clash with Brisbane Heat at Adelaide Oval on Sunday. Darlington was a picture of composure and positivity throughout the poor start, according to Mandhana.
“That’s the key thing as a leader that you don’t let the pressure or anything show on your face,” Mandhana told AAP. “She was really good throughout those four matches, just kept focusing on the positives and she had a major role to play in it [the turnaround].
“She looks pretty relaxed and calm for her age. She’s doing an amazing job to lead a team at her age. She’s quite approachable, that’s the best thing about her and that’s what you want as a captain.”
Darlington made her international debut during the recent multi-format series, becoming just the third Indigenous woman to play cricket for Australia. The Kamilaroi woman was part of an Indigenous team that visited England in 2018, retracing the steps of the 1868 Aboriginal tour.
Darlington’s appointment as the youngest ever WBBL captain came at the Thunder’s customary shirt presentation on the banks of the River Derwent, where traditional owners performed a smoking ceremony.
Darlington and team-mate Anika Learoyd, a Gumbaynggirr woman, spoke from the heart while starting conversations about Indigenous culture with new team-mates like Mandhana.
“It’s amazing to learn more about the culture…hear their stories and learn more about them,” Mandhana said. “Especially for those of us not from Australia. Within the team, we discuss the culture and the land where we are going to play.”
Mandhana, who celebrated a record-breaking Test ton earlier this season, has posted two half-centuries from her past three WBBL games. She has represented India on 150 occasions, with her first match against Australia coming at Adelaide Oval in 2016. The 25-year-old is thrilled to return to the venue that also triggers memories of “watching Virat score a lot of runs”.
“It’s a good wicket to bat on,” Mandhana said. “I’m excited. We didn’t start this tournament the way we wanted to but there were positive signs. Hopefully we continue this momentum, we can’t afford to lose many other matches.”
The WBBL continues on Saturday with three games, including a showdown between the second-placed Heat and table-topping Melbourne Renegades at Karen Rolton Oval.