A sensational 103 off 51 balls brought the smile back on the face of India captain Harmanpreet Kaur Bhullar, to erase memories of the fake degree row that had jeopardised her job as DSP earlier this year.
As Harmanpreet became the first Indian woman cricketer to score a century in T-20 Internationals in the side’s match against New Zealand in Guyana, her first coach Kamaldeesh Singh Sodhi, watching the telecast at his home in Moga, said: “It was heartening to see the smile on her face. The controversy had made her a little depressed. She would not speak with her friends or fellow cricketers. All of us would provide her moral support and we told her to let her bat do the talking. She understood that.” Harmanpreet’s knock saw India record a 34-run win over New Zealand in the opening game.
Earlier this year, Harmanpreet was embroiled in controversy after the Punjab government withdrew her DSP rank saying her degree had been found to be fake. Harmanpreet said she wasn’t aware of the degree being fake after the Punjab CM’s offer of the post was withdrawn in July.
Sodhi and his son Yadwinder, Harmanpreet’s current coach based in Australia, spoke to her daily to motivate her. “Today’s hundred is her biggest answer to those questioning her and the only thing she cares and loves is playing cricket and representing India,” Sodhi said.
Harmanpreet started training under Sodhi at Gyan Jyoti Senior Secondary School in Darapur village near Moga. “Today, Harmanpreet reminded us of her first World Cup in 2009. It was her fourth match and the way she hit the ball into the stands at SCG still counts as one of my favourite shots. And it looked as if she was continuing her knock of 171 from last year’s World Cup,” he said.
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Sodhi lauded her timing and her ability to utilise the pace of the bowlers. “She practised with us one and a half months ago and we made U-19 boys bowl at her. She wanted to train against them as she knew that tackling pacers will be the main challenge in the West Indies. She also practised at Baradari grounds in Patiala where most Punjab-level cricketers train and it helped her batting,” he said.
For Harmanpreet’s father Harmander Singh Bhullar, Friday’s knock was like a trip back in time to see the 25-year-old bat freely. “It’s the first time that she has gone to the World Cup as captain. And, she has shown her desire to lead the team and set an example with today’s knock. Last year’s World Cup century made the world recognise her talent but, we hope today’s knock will also make the world notice her as a captain,” he said.