On Monday (February 20), during India’s last group fixture against Ireland, Indian skipper Harmanpreet Kaur etched history by becoming the first player in T20I history to make 150 appearances, after going past India Men’s skipper Rohit Sharma to the feat.
The 33-year-old from Moga is perhaps one of the biggest chapters in Indian women’s history, with her influence being evidently visible on the rest of the unit. Harmanpreet’s fearsome hitting has already been a revered part of India women’s modern culture, and following her 150th appearance, the Indian skipper was quite emotional looking back at her career.
“I think it is a huge achievement for me because this is something which I never thought of. You know, one day I will, I will be the one who will play the most T20 cricket matches,” Harmanpreet said at the post-match press conference.
Harmanpreet revealed that the videos and montages that came her way ahead of her 150th appearance was quite heart-warming, and insisted that the support is something that will always motivate her.
“But when I get such emotional videos from the team, you know, they were wishing me luck and they were, showing how important I was in their career, how important - I was supporting them all their ups and downs. I think that is something which, always motivates you. Before coming here, today's game, when I saw that video, everybody was appreciating the hard work which I have been doing for a long time,” she added.
“That was something, you know, which gives me a lot of confidence and showing their trust on each and every player and how important I was in their career. And I think that is something which gives me a lot of confidence. And I love to see someone else now, the other girls who are, you know, playing so much cricket, they should also do the same thing to the young players whenever they get a chance to appreciate them.
“So, I think this is something which is very important for any player. And it was good to see that, you know, everybody was wishing luck and, that small, small videos, the time they took for me was something which was very impressive.”
India's battle against Australia
But India have a huge task at their hand, following the win against Ireland. In most likely scenario, the Women in Blue are set to face the defending champions, Australia, who have thus far remained unbeaten in the competition.
“I think there will be equal pressure because, our team has been doing well for many years and obviously, Australia has played very well in this tournament. They have been unbeaten and have always been doing well. And when we get a chance to play against them, our motive is to play good cricket,” Harmanpreet had to say on the fixture against Australia.
“Because when you play good cricket in front of a team like Australia, you get to learn a lot as a player and as a team, you get a chance to do well in the future. So, I think it's a match that happens here, the team that does the best in every moment goes ahead. It's not like, a duo team is good, they will do well. So, I think we will just play our free career because whenever our team has played with freedom, we have always won big matches. So, I think our main motive will be to stay in a good mindset, stay positive and back ourselves.”
So, what would be a key area that the Indian batters would focus? Reducing the dot-balls, and proactively trying to score runs off them.
“Dot balls are something which [are] already worrying us. In the next game, we would love to see some improvement in that area also.”
Are India concerned about Shafali's inconsistent run?
Shafali Verma, at the top of the order, hasn’t quite been in the form that the team would have hoped from the youngster. Whilst there is certainly set to be pressure on the young opener, the Indian skipper stated that the team has given her a ‘free hand’ to go and express herself, and play her natural game.
“Well, we have always given her that liberty, you know, where she can go and express herself. We never put too much pressure on ourselves because we know she's someone who likes to play free cricket. She's someone who doesn't like to, you know, talk too much before the game. And she knows our condition because we spend so much time here,” Harmanpreet had to say on Shafali.
The young Indian opener led the Indian U-19 side in these conditions ahead of the showpiece event, and was also part of history, becoming the first Indian women’s skipper to win an ICC event. Harmanpreet also added that in patches, the right-hander has really come to fore, and insisted that the team would continue to back her, considering the unique play style that she brings to the table.
“She was here playing the Under-19 World Cup. She knows how the wicket, how the condition behaves. So, I think, I know her inning is very important for us because whenever she clicks, we know we are always into the game. Things are not under your control. You just need to fight for each and every ball. And I think in patches, she was doing well, we have been always backing her and that's what we want to do in the future also, because we know how important she is.”