From small town Moga-girl to 'Harmonster' - Harmanpreet Kaur all set to lead team India again
Harmanpreet Kaur will lead the Indian team in the T20 World Cup in Australia. Here is a look at her transformative role in Indian cricket.
Harmanpreet Kaur is all set to lead to lead the Indian team in the T20 World Cup to be held from February 21. The Board of Control for Cricket in India announced the squad the 15-member squad on Sunday, along with the team for the tri-series in Australia which be held before the World Cup.
The 15-member squad features T20 regulars, with the exception of the Richa Ghosh who has received her maiden call to the national side. Sixteen-year-old Richa’s call to the senior team came after her batting exploits in the recent domestic Women’s Challenger Trophy where she had scores of 15 (17 balls), 36 (26), 22 (17) and 25 (26).
Spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad has been called back to play the shortest format, whereas Mansi Joshi and Anuja Patil missed out. A spin heavy unit, the team comprises only three pacers - Shikha Pandey, Pooja Vastrakar and Arundhati Reddy.
The tournament will take place in Australia, famous for pitches with swing and bounce. However, Harmanpreet in the press conference held after the squad announcement in Mumbai said that the spinners have been her side’s strength in bowling and it wouldn’t change much on the bouncier tracks.
Teenage sensation Shafali Verma has also made the squad and will play in her first global tournament. The team at Harmanpreet’s disposal though very young, is packed with players who have proven their capabilities. Their first choice opener Shafali is 15, cice-captain Smriti Mandhana is 23, Jemimah Rodrigues is 19.
The Harmonster factor
Harmanpreet Kaur will be leading the Indian side for the second time in the World T20 tournament. At the 2018 T20 World Cup, Harmanpreet led the team to the semi-finals where India lost to England.
Her disruptive innings in the semi-finals of the 2017 one-day World Cup in England gave women’s cricket in India the visibility and credence that is present today. From playing in front of empty stadiums to people chanting their names, women cricketers have finally received their due in terms of recognition as cricketers, due to the Harmanpreet’s blitzkreig innings of 171 not out in 115 balls against defending champions Australia in the 2017 World Cup. The finals of the tournament alone was viewed by 126 million people in India, which was a 300 percent increase in viewership from the previous World Cup in 2014, which was incidentally held in India.
Harmanpreet has broadened the hemispheres of the women’s game with her monstrous power and six-hitting abilities, which was also the reason for her inclusion in the national side in 2009 World Cup.
The small-town girl from Moga, Punjab who stands five-and-half feet tall put the cricket administration in doubt when she hoisted a six over the stadium’s roof in her first international tournament. She had to undergo a dope test after that match to prove that it was her natural talent and not steroid-fuelled power.
Nicknamed ‘Harmonster’ for her delirium-inducing hitting abilities, Harmanpreet also has several other achievements to her name, especially in the shortest format. In November 2018, she became the first Indian woman cricketer to score an international ton in T20s. She smashed 8 sixes in that innings scoring 103 runs against New Zealand.
She also became the first Indian cricketer to play T20 leagues abroad, when she was signed by Sydney Thunder to play in the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia. She is also the first woman cricketer to have a bat endorsement deal with Ceat.
In her 10-year career, Harmanpreet has truly become a catalyst for women’s cricket in a cricket-crazy nation that seemed to have no idea of the women’s game until a few years ago.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)