The fan's dedication to Mandhana and cricket is a testament to the growing popularity of women's cricket around the world

In a heartwarming display of passion for the sport, Jun Yu, a cricket enthusiast from Beijing, China, embarked on a remarkable journey to Hangzhou to witness the Indian women’s cricket team in action at the 2023 Asian Games. Carrying a poster that read ‘Mandhana The Goddess,’ Yu’s dedication to cricket and admiration for Smriti Mandhana, the vice-captain of the Indian women’s team, shone brightly.

Yu stands out as a rare individual in China, where cricket is far from a mainstream sport. Yet, his love for the game compelled him to cover a staggering distance of 1300 kilometers from Beijing to Hangzhou just to catch a glimpse of his cricketing idol, whom he fondly referred to as “Goddess.”

Yu’s fascination with the cricketing brilliance of Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, and Smriti Mandhana—three of his favorite players—sparked this exceptional journey as he delved deep into cricket videos on YouTube.

“I saw Jasprit Bumrah’s World Cup 2019 spell versus Australia. I support both Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. They are the game’s all-time greats right now. Suryakumar Yadav and Jaspreet Bumrah are the next two. In the 2019 World Cup match against Australia, Bumrah was outstanding, Yu said, according to an interview with PTI.

Curious about how he acquired his cricket knowledge, Yu explained, “My Beijing university offers cricket lessons. I thus have some knowledge about it.”

Yu shed light on the cricket landscape in China, revealing its nascent status. “China has a shortage of cricket fields, players, and spectators. People do not understand how the game is played. Only Guangzhou possesses a dedicated cricket stadium, which hosted matches during the 2010 Asian Games. This is primarily due to historical factors,” he said.

At the Pingfeng cricket field on the Zhejiang University of Technology campus in Hangzhou, Yu joined a diverse crowd of cricket enthusiasts. The venue, while not a conventional cricket stadium, underwent a transformation from a flower garden for the Asian Games.

“I never play cricket despite my desire. There are no suitable grounds available. Before the Asian Games, even this area was a flower field. For the Asian Games, it was transformed into a cricket pitch. A few warm-up matches were played here before the Asian Games,” Yu explained.

While Yu holds immense respect for Sachin Tendulkar, his favorite cricketer hails from New Zealand.

“Kaine Williamson is my favourite, but Sachin Tendulkar is a legend of the game,” Yu added. Currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Zoology at a university in Beijing, Yu’s love for cricket remains unwavering.

Despite his passion for the sport and the Indian cricket team, Yu couldn’t extend his stay for the men’s tournament of the Asian Games due to academic commitments.

“I travelled here from Beijing for a cost of 1000 Yuan (INR 11,400). I’m unable to attend the men’s competition because of my schoolwork. On Tuesday, I will be going back to Beijing,” he concluded.