As a volleyball and basketball player, Harmandar Bhullar always wanted one of his children to take up sports. On March 8, 1989 when his eldest daughter Harmanpreet Kaur Bhullar was born, incidentally the senior Bhullar bought a t-shirt that had ‘good batsman’ written on it. On Thursday, as 28-year-old Harmanpreet played the knock of her life against Australia in Derby, it seemed the purchase was more than just a coincidence.
Harmanpreet’s exploits in the Women’s World Cup semifinal brought back memories of that day for the Moga-based family. “We would click her pictures with little wooden bats in her hands. Before the World Cup, she had told us that she would score a century and when she scored it today against Australia, aapan sochya ki good batsman di jagah best batswoman di trophy toh le ke ayegi (we thought that rather than a good batsman, she will bring home the trophy for the best batswoman),” shared 60-year-old Harmandar, who works as a clerk with a local advocate.
As a kid, Harmanpreet would often accompany her father to the Guru Nanak Stadium right opposite their house to play cricket with the local boys. The youngster would also pursue hockey and athletics at her Government School teams. A chance meeting with cricket coach Kamaldeesh Singh Sodhi saw her joining the Gian Jyoti School Academy at village Tarapur.
Soon the youngster would make her way to the Moga district and Punjab junior teams. “While on a walk at Guru nanak Stadium, I saw her playing. I was building a team and took her in our academy. The following year, Moga reached the final in the Punjab Inter-District tournament and next year we won it and have been the champions ever since,” Kamaldeesh told The Indian Express.
“During one of the matches in Patiala, she played a knock of 75 and her sixes broke the neighbouring houses’ windows. When the owners came to know that a girl has hit those sixes, they applauded her.” Brother Gurjinder Singh would often take Hamranpreet to play local matches and the younger brother would often see her sister dominate the local boys in club matches on Sundays. While he would also help their father search for better cricket kits online, Harmanpreet would later get her own kits from abroad.
“I also play cricket at the university level and initially she would smash so many sixes during the local tournaments that I would often place bets (not money) with my friends. Once she scored a 100 in a six-over club match and later she gave all of us a party at a local food joint. She has promised me to get a new I-phone 7 plus if India wins the trophy,” shares Gurjinder.
It was in 2009 that Harmanpreet first came to the limelight when she made her mark with the bat in the Challenger Trophy before being selected for the Indian women’s team for the World T20. Harmanpreet would score only eight runs in two innings in the tournament but her first century against England in 2013 cemented her place.
Before Thursday match, she talked with her coach and Kamaldeesh’s son Yadwinder Singh Sodhi, who recently shifted to Australia for cricket coaching. “She loves performing against Australia. I talked with her two days ago about her stint with Sydney Thunder and she knew that her best was yet to come in the tournament. When she played her first World Cup in Australia, she hit a 110m six and she told us later that her bats were scanned to check if there was any additional weight. With today’s knock, she has shown the world her bat’s weight in terms of runs. Initially in her career, she would get an opportunity to bat lower down the order but her hundred against England in Mumbai in 2013 gave her confidence and sealed her batting spot,” said Yadwinder, head coach at Port Adelaide Cricket Club.
Last year, Harmanpreet became the first Indian woman to play in the Women’s Big Bash League and it was a tweet by former Australia wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist which motivated her to score more runs in Australia and watch videos of other Australian players to understand their bowling.
“She still remembers the exact date and time of the tweet and it was like winning a trophy for her. She takes her wicketkeeping skills seriously and the tweet from a player like Adam Gilchrist means a lot for her. She idolises Virender Sehwag and whenever she is in Moga, imitates his batting style and says she would score a double hundred one day,” shared Harmanpreet’s younger sister Hemjit Kaur.
And with Harmanpreet always on tour, mother Satwinder Kaur is also worried about her daughter being injured. Earlier in the World Cup, she suffered a hand injury and mom would remind her to take medication regularly.
“When she injured her hand during the first match in the tournament, we were a bit worried. She sent us pictures. But that has been a case ever since she started playing. She won her first trophy in athletics in school and she ran like that during today’s innings. One thing which she is very particular about is keeping her pads and bats clean whenever she is at home and that’s is the only homely thing she knows (laughs). She has now learnt to cook Maggi and often prepares it for her team-mates whenever she is in the camp,” shared her mother.