Women’s cricket star Harmanpreet Kaur Bhullar has just the mix of qualities that could help India clinch the ICC World Twenty20 title
While all eyes will be on Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Men in Blue as the ICC World T20 begins this week, India’s women cricketers, who played some sparkling cricket recently, also deserve to be followed closely at the biggest stage of the shortest form of the game.
A historic T20 series win in Australia was followed by a comprehensive series win over Sri Lanka at home.
Middle order batswoman Harmanpreet Kaur Bhullar, who hails from Moga district in Punjab, performed well enough against the Australians and Sri Lankans to be a threat to India’s rivals in the World T20.
India’s Harmanpreet Kaur plays a leg-side shot against Australia at Canberra last month. Pic/Getty ImagesIndia’s Harmanpreet Kaur plays a leg-side shot against Australia at Canberra last month. Pic/Getty Images
Harmanpreet stunned the Australians in the opening T20 game in Adelaide on January 26 when she slammed a 36-ball 41 to help India go past Australia’s 140 with five wickets and 10 balls to spare. India’s superlative show prompted Australia’s Alyssa Healy to say, “They played with some real freedom. They showed us how to play T20 cricket today.”
Harmanpreet, who celebrates her 27th birthday on Women’s Day today, spoke to mid-day about various aspects of her sporting life.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q. How and why did you start playing sport?
A. My father (Harmander Singh) was a club cricketer. I used to watch him play. Though I hail from Moga where women’s cricket wasn’t played, it was my father who encouraged me to play the sport and take it up as a career.
Q. Why are you so passionate about cricket?
A. As a kid, when I saw male cricketers on TV, I silently dreamt of playing the sport. I consider myself lucky that I never faced problems from family. Everybody supported and encouraged me to do whatever I wanted. I have been playing cricket from the age of six. I didn’t realise that over the years the dream turned into a passion.
Q. What has the sport given you?
A. The sport has made me the person I am today. It has given me a lot of confidence and instilled love for my country.
Q. What obstacles did you have to overcome?
A. Unlike others, I consider myself lucky that I faced no obstacles.
Q. Surely, there must have been something that you had to give up...
A. I don’t have any regrets. Yes, I had to stay away from my family when I was very young. I started playing professional cricket at 17 and staying away from my mother (Satwinder Kaur). That was emotionally taxing.
Q. If you were to rewind the clock and go back a few years, would you still choose to play cricket?
A. Yes. Cricket is my life. My father encouraged me to take up the sport even though we did not have facilities for women. I used to play with boys. That’s how I became stronger. If not cricket, I could have taken up hockey.
Q. Which achievement are you most proud of?
A. It was a dream to play for the country. When I wore the India jersey for the first time with my name on my back, I felt I had realised that dream. It was a day before I turned 20 — against Pakistan on March 7, 2009.
Q. What has cricket taught you?
A. A lot of things, but the biggest has been to shoulder responsibility.
Q. How do you apply sport in your personal or everyday life?
A. As a batswoman, you get only one chance to prove yourself. I follow the same principle in my personal life.
Q. You have earned recognition and fame through cricket. What’s the one thing that will never change for you?
A. Name and fame is temporary and I do not wish to be swayed. My interest in cricket will never change.
Q. Young people focus on academics. As someone who has gained so much from sport, what is your view on youth and sports?
A. You cannot ignore education since it is a very important part of life, but if we add sports to our daily lives, it helps us keep fit. I don’t know why sport cannot be taken up professionally. There can be a good future in sports if kids are guided properly. Having said that, every person has different personal interests. It is important to teach today’s youth the importance of staying fit. Schools should make sporting activities compulsory. If you start playing as a kid, you understand the importance of sports when you grow up and could consider taking it up as a career.
Q. If there is one person you wish to thank for your success, who would that be?
A. It is difficult to pick one person, but if I have to, it will be my father. He has supported me since the time I picked up a cricket bat.
Q. What’s the biggest quality in you that people can learn from?
A. I like to give my 100 per cent in whatever I do. Also, I believe that one should perform any task with a sense of responsibility.
Q. Why is the India jersey so special to you?
A. Before I made my India debut, my father, friends and extended family used to gift me India jerseys bearing names of male cricketers. But I never wore them. It was my dream to wear an India jersey with my name.
Q. Which format of cricket do you enjoy most?
A. I like all formats. But being an aggressive batswoman, I like Twenty20 and ODIs.
Q. What are you looking to achieve in World T20?
A. With the Women’s ICC World Twenty20 starting on March 15, it is my dream to win the title for our country. Our recent performances against Australia and Sri Lanka have given us confidence.