With the ongoing World Cup progressing towards its business end, India are looking to win their remaining fixtures and secure a semi-final berth for themselves. And one of their biggest match-winners who can help them achieve the same is their vice-captain and arguably the biggest power-hitter in the line-up, Harmanpreet Kaur.
With two fifties against New Zealand and Australia and a captivating century against the West Indies, Harman has scored 256 runs in the tournament thus far and is the fourth-highest run-getter. Plagued by poor form in the series against the White Ferns, Harman turned her form with the bat in no time, and with two games remaining in the round-robin stage for India, the team will be looking at Harman, in particular, to turn their fortunes around as well.
In a chat with Women's CricZone before the tournament, Harmanpreet Kaur talked about India's chances in the ongoing World Cup, her ability to excel under pressure, battling injuries, the importance of family and teammates during pressure situations, and a lot more.
Q: India reached the final of the 2017 World Cup and the ICC T20 World Cup in 2020 as well. What is the motivation this time around?
Yes, obviously it was extremely disappointing to go all the way and then lose in the finals. But this time around the whole unit is looking in great shape. We have done a lot of team bonding sessions and everything that we could do in our capacity to go all the way. We are just waiting for the moment to lift the World Cup trophy.
Q: Let me take you back to your epochal 171 not out that you played in the second semi-final of the 2017 World Cup against Australia at Derby. How much do you think that has changed women's cricket?
If people acknowledge your performances and appreciate it, whenever you deliver on the field, it gives you a lot of merriment as a player. That knock was definitely very special for me. I really wanted to play unrestrained cricket that day. Prior to that day, I was not able to play the way I wanted to. I would like to credit my team for that performance. The way they supported me throughout the tournament was something really special and is very close to my heart. As far as changing women's cricket is concerned, I am highly grateful to the almighty for presenting me with such a valuable opportunity and making me contribute in such a manner.
The fact that it changed how people perceived our sport makes me really glad. We as a unit always used to discuss when will women's cricket get its due. It was something that was always a part of the discussion in our dressing room. Even now when I watch that innings, it motivates me to go out there and recreate something similar all over again.
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Q: You are someone who plays really well under pressure and in big tournaments. In the opening game of the 2018 T20 World Cup, you came to bat at a juncture when the team was struggling at 40 for three and then scored a blistering century. Are you someone who likes playing under pressure?
A lot of hard work goes into playing such knocks. It is not something that happens overnight. And again a lot of credit goes to the team management for maintaining a cordial environment because that eventually helps in bringing the best out of me. We had properly planned before that tournament as to how we were going to deal with such a situation and resuscitate again. I think I was lucky that day.
And also a lot of credit goes to Jemimah Rodrigues, she told me about the wicket and how it was behaving. I think you need someone who can handle difficult situations maturely for you to play freely and Jemi (Jemimah Rodrigues) did just that. I knew that even if I get dismissed, she would keep on playing sensibly and take the team to a good score.
Q: You sustained a lot of injuries in the year 2021. You suffered a groin injury in the home series against South Africa, then you contracted COVID-19, picked up a quadriceps strain in the series against England in England, you also suffered a thumb injury in the series against Australia in Australia. People had started writing you off. So what actually kept you going and helped you perform the way you did in the 2021 Women's Big Bash League (WBBL)?
It's important for me to keep things in balance. When you do well people walk up to you and appreciate you. Similarly, when you fail then the same set of people do not shy away from letting you know that you aren't performing. So I feel it is important to maintain a balance. It is easier to preach sermons to people and ask them to keep their chins up when they aren't doing well. But it is extremely difficult to apply the same to yourself when you are struggling to perform. I was not thinking too much when I was getting all those injuries back to back.
Although when I sustained the thumb injury, I was not able to turn up on the field, hence dedicated all my time towards my fitness and was preparing for the next opportunity. Our physiotherapist helped me a lot and helped me regain my fitness. By the time the WBBL started, I was fully prepared and raring to go. And that's what brought the best out of me.
Q: You are not someone who gets bogged down by challenges. How do you always remain positive?
Talking to the family always helps. My mom and dad have a very positive outlook towards life. Also, the other people around me like my friends and teammates never leave me alone. They are always available to talk to me whenever I need them. Even when I was getting all those injuries back to back all the people around me were so positive and created an environment wherein I could recuperate with ease. They made me realise that I only needed to control the controllables.
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Q: It is most probably going to be the last World Cup for both Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami. Their contribution to the sport is immense. How motivated is the whole team to win the silverware for them?
Personally, I don't think that the ongoing World Cup should be their last because of the way they have been performing at the moment. They should never quit the sport. We are always motivated when we compete in a global tournament but this time around the motivation is even bigger because we are not sure if they (Mithali and Jhulan) will continue with international cricket after the World Cup.
Q: Will we be able to see team India clinch the silverware that has eluded the side thus far?
We certainly have what it takes to win the trophy. We just need to push a little extra and grind out. Also, we need to avoid the mistakes that we have made in the past. The game awareness has to increase and if that happens, then we will be able to go the distance this time around. I am motivated to give my hundred percent and perform as per expectations. If we all play to our potential, then no one can stop us from lifting the trophy.