Harmanpreet Kaur played a determined innings to bat defending champions Australia out of the ICC Women’s World Cup, 2017. She mauled the Australian attack en route her 115-ball 171* to seize the advantage for India.
Reflecting on the knock a day later Harmanpreet told bcci.tv, “Now I am feeling good. Yesterday while batting my only thought was no matter how many runs we make, they are not enough because the Australian lineup is really good. They bat deep. I am feeling better after watching the highlights. Yesterday, it felt like things were moving slowly.”
When told that her knock is being compared to Kapil Devi’s 175-run knock during the 1983 World Cup, Harmanpreet said, “He has given a lot to Indian cricket and I have just begun. I cannot even compare myself to him. But it feels good when people appreciate you like that.”
With her task cut out, Harmanpreet attacked with gusto. So engrossed was she in her task that she was unaware of her approaching century. Risking a run out, she insisted her partner Deepti Sharma complete two runs and wasn’t aware she had reached 100 with it. “At that point, my only focus was getting as many runs off the over as possible. I realised later that I completed 100 runs,” she said.
While her 66-run stand with Mithali Raj set the stage, Harmanpreet’s 137-run stand with Deepti followed by a quick-fire 43-run stand with Veda Krishnamurthy took India to 281 for four. Speaking about the plan, she said, “When we got to know we will play the semi-final against Australia, we knew that we can attack their bowling. They have good medium pacers but we can attack their spinners. I was waiting for the spinners to come on so that I can attack.
“The plan was to go for runs even if we lose wickets and not allow the bowlers to dominate us. So even after Mithali (Raj) di departed, my aim was to get the team to 250 anyhow because only then we could have won. We didn’t stand a chance with 210-230. At the end of the day, we won only because we had scored in excess of 250 runs. The plan worked,” she explained.
Speaking about the partnership with Deepti, she said, “When Deepti came in to bat she seemed a bit nervous to me. I told her that the ball was coming on to the bat really well. It is not a very hard wicket to bat on. Watch and play your game. I told her to trust herself. She took singles and doubles initially to play herself in and then started hitting the ball.”
Recalling the onslaught, she launched with Krishnamurthy, Harmanpreet said, “Veda likes to play the big shots and you don’t have to tell her anything. She knew that she had to bat in the fifth gear from the first ball. She started getting boundaries and that gave me confidence too. When I was batting with Veda runs were flowing from both ends. So, I enjoyed (batting) even more.”
Her ability to handle pressure has gained her the reputation of being a big match player. Speaking about countering pressure, she said, “If I get runs quickly, I feel good. Then the pressure goes away regardless of the occasion or opposition. At that point, all you want to do is score as many runs as you can and as quickly as possible.
“All matches are important when you are representing the country. I enjoy performing in the big matches because when you do well in those games the morale of the team increases and the atmosphere also gets better; it becomes positive. So, you want to perform for the team. If you do perform then the three-four other players who can do well, also gain confidence and then whole team performs.”
Talking about her knock against Australia where she appeared to be ‘in the zone’ as is often said by batters, Harmanpreet said, “Yesterday, when I started getting runs and boundaries early in the innings my mindset was, ‘I am connecting well and so I will go for it and play my shots.’ Before this game I wasn’t getting a chance to bat as much. And whenever I did the team was in a tough situation and I wasn’t able to deliver. That I hadn’t been able to score runs when the team needed me was playing on my mind.
“Yesterday’s match (semi-final) was such that if I scored and the team won then there wouldn’t be anything bigger than that. I was telling myself to stay positive; give positive message to my partners. I was looking to score as many as I could off each delivery and rotate strike. The only thought was that the more runs we make the better it would be,” she elaborated.
“When I am able to middle the ball well I start gaining confidence. If the first ball itself connects well (nothing like it). Yesterday, after taking guard, I defended the first ball well and that gave me the confidence. Being able to middle the first ball itself gave me the confidence to play my shots afterwards,” she added.
Asked if the attention the team has now garnered adds to the pressure to perform, Harmanpreet replied, “We are feeling good because we wanted this. We were waiting for the day when we would get the kind of love from people that male cricketers are getting. Now that we are getting it, it feels good. Hopefully, we will do well in the next match also and they will continue to shower us with the love.”
The next match is the World Cup final against England Women and at Lord’s. Looking forward to the game, she said, “We are excited. I can say that since we started playing in the ICC Women’s Championships last year, we have been wanting to qualify for the World Cup, play at Lord’s and win the trophy. It is the first time that I have seen that every girl in the team, the management, have been only talking about playing and winning. When every member of your team is thinking in that direction, the atmosphere around is so positive that you always get the result you want. Everyone has been preparing for this day for so long and that’s why we are getting these results.”