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Harmanpreet Kaur: The key to India's pandora box

Last updated on 11 Feb 2023 | 06:03 AM
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Harmanpreet Kaur: The key to India's pandora box

The Indian skipper ought to replicate her World Cup heroics to help the Women in Blue script history

There is something about Harmanpreet Kaur and world events that makes you believe in magic. 

A record-breaking unbeaten 171 against Australia in the semi-final of the 2017 World Cup in Derby✅

A half-century in the summit clash of the 2017 World Cup against England at Lords✅

A 51-ball 103-run carnage against New Zealand in the 2018 T20 World Cup in Guyana✅

A sublime hundred against West Indies at Seddon Park to help India out of early jitters in the 2022 World Cup✅

A quick-fire fifty against Australia in the league stages of the 2022 World Cup at Eden Park✅

You name an edition of a world event, and she has left the cricketing world in absolute awe of her hard-hitting abilities and her exuberant style of play. 

And to cap off the last year, the Indian skipper led the team to the finals of the inaugural edition of the Commonwealth Games and a clean sweep against England away from home. 

It is fair to say that Indian cricket has improved by leaps and bounds since Harmanpreet has taken over the mantle from Mithali Raj, especially in the shortest format of the game. 

While the Women in Blue have come agonisingly close to the coveted world title thrice in the last five attempts, all eyes will be on Harmanpreet, and her young brigade as India set foot at the Newlands in Cape Town for their opening clash against arch-rivals Pakistan. However, this time around, with an additional tag of being one of the favourites along with defending champions Australia. 

There ain't any doubt that India and Australia have produced some riveting contests that have enthralled millions of fans, but before the world awaits for this high-voltage clash, the road in the World Cup seems to a riddled with complications. 

First, let us address the elephant in the room: The inaugural WOMEN'S PREMIER LEAGUE AUCTION. 

In the captain's press conference ahead of the T20 World Cup, Harmanpreet stated that it would indeed be a massive day for all the Indian players. "It's a really big day for all of us because we have been waiting for years and years now. The next two or three months are very important for women's cricket."

"We have seen how the WBBL and the Hundred have helped their countries improve their cricket. But, before the auction, we have a very important game against Pakistan, and we are just going to focus on that," she further added. 

And rightly so because the last time these two sides locked horns in the Asia Cup in October 2022, Pakistan stunned India by 13 runs to script a memorable win. 

STUNNED only because the last time the green army got the better of the Indian side was in 2016 in Delhi, and have a win percentage of only 23.1 against the Women in Blue. 

With the stakes rocketing sky-high in the opening fixture, Harmanpreet and her troops have no chance for even the slightest slip-up as history beckons. 

We have seen how much a World Cup triumph can do to Indian cricket, especially before the inaugural edition of a T20 league but dare I say, it will not be easy for them this time around as the conditions are not conducive for strokeplay. 

And they will need their skipper ever so much to guide them out of these challenging surfaces every single time in the next fortnight. The 33-year-old has been part of every edition of the T20 World Cup and is the player with the most number of games in the shortest format.

With the wickets sluggish in nature, as we observed in the recently concluded Women's tri-series and the first clash featuring Sri Lanka and South Africa, India will have their task cut out as most of their top order batters like pace onto the ball. 

In the 28 innings played after the T20 World Cup Down Under, the right-handed batter has by far been the most assured batter against spinners amassing 479 runs at an average of 36.84 and a strike rate of 126.4, which is the best in the aforementioned time. 

Coming in at number four, Harmanpreet has often been in a situation to either steady the innings after early jitters or continue to milk the runs after a solid foundation by Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana

While the Indian team look like a well-oiled machine in this format, their recent form against spin, especially in tri-series, has been a cause of concern heading into the marquee event, with most of the batters struggling to find the middle of the bat. The onus of the side thus will rely heavily on Harmanpreet to not only consolidate the innings but also guide the inexperienced batting unit in every game.

The Moga-born batter has smashed 711 runs in 27 innings at an average of 33.85 and a strike rate of 122.2, which is the best among batters in the middle order (4-7) to lead India's charge in T20Is. 

Her exploits since the last edition of the showpiece event is sure to garner plenty of hope among the Indian fans, and rightly so, but deep inside, Harmanpreet does realise this might probably be one of the last couple of showpiece events she might lead or be a part of for the national side. 

The skipper said in her press conference that the next two months are crucial for Indian women's cricket. Well, the Under-19 team have created history by winning the inaugural World Cup, it is now time for the senior side to not only be inspired by their heroics but also create a revolution back home by winning the elusive title. 

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