“They showed us how to play T20 cricket today,” was what Australian captain Alyssa Healy said after India beat them at home in 2016. India had chased down a total of 141 set up by the hosts with more than an over to spare and it remains India’s highest run-chase. It was powered by the belligerence of Harmanpreet Kaur, who scored 46 off 31 balls.
Harmanpreet is one of the most sought after batters in the shortest format of the game. Sydney Thunder enjoyed her services in the Women’s Big Bash League last season. She will now play for Surrey Stars in the English Kia Super League. It hence would come as a surprise to few that she is captain of the Indian T20I team.
In the One Day Internationals, though, she is deputy to the indomitable Mithali Raj. It is only natural for the mind to wonder if Harmanpreet’s tendency for the big hits in T20 cricket might be her undoing in the 50-over game but the truth is far from it. Her importance in the team was seen in India’s successful World Cup qualifier campaign. While India’s top-order did most of the talking, Harmanpreet acted as the glue that held the Indian middle order together. She played some of her most composed innings in the tournament. One of these was in the final in which she stood like a rock as the Indian lower order fell around her. They needed eight to win off the last two balls and Harmanpreet brought six of it with a maximum off the penultimate delivery. The last ball was pushed for two runs and India won the title.
Harmanpreet is a player who can wear many hats. She can be the aggressor, charging down the track and giving those in the stands some catching practice. She can also be the aforementioned glue, holding back her thoughts on those bad balls and providing an anchor to the innings. As was evident from the final of the World Cup qualifier, she is also a finisher. She is to the Indian women’s team what MS Dhoni is to their male counterparts, strictly from a batting perspective.
In the upcoming women’s World Cup, India will be facing some of the most vicious bowling attacks in the world. The presence of Harmanpreet Kaur in that middle order would be a source of relief for those higher up in the Indian batting order looking to go for the big shots.