NEW DELHI: The dejection was evident on India captain Harmanpreet Kaur’s face when India, who cruised to the final of the ICC 2020 T20 World Cup on the back of contrasting wins, lost the final battle to Australia. India were looking like title favourites. They had already defeated their opponents – Australia – in the group stage, but the hosts bounced back and avenged their group-stage defeat by demolishing Harmanpreet’s team by 85 runs to win the trophy.
This time, in South Africa, Harmanpreet will once again lead the Women in Blue in the next edition of the Women’s T20 World Cup. Team India are still waiting for their first title.
The most successful team in the history of the tournament is Australia, who have won the title 5 times.
Since the inception of the Women’s T20 World Cup in 2009 India have managed to enter the final only once – in 2020 – under Harmanpreet’s captaincy.
This time India are placed alongside England, Ireland, Pakistan and West Indies in Group B. The Women in Blue will kick off their World Cup campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan on February 12 at the Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town.
Harmanpreet Kaur (TOI Photo)
As the team gears up for the mega tournament, TimesofIndia.com caught up with India skipper Harmanpreet to talk about the team’s World Cup plans and potential title chances, key players, who amongst Yastika Bhatia and Richa Ghosh as the preferred wicketkeeper, young sensation and U-19 T20 World Cup winning captain Shafali Verma, Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni’s influence on her and much more…
What has been the biggest thing that you have learnt as India captain?
The amount of responsibilities I have been getting day by day. This is the biggest thing and this keeps me motivated. Every day is special for me. Leading a team is a big achievement for any cricketer. I am really grateful that I have got this opportunity to lead my country. The support I have been getting from the Indian media, fans and brands like Puma, these things motivate me to do well.
India finished runners-up at the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup when you were captain. Once again, you will lead the team. Whatare the plans?
The Tri-series (in SA – India, SA and WI) helped us in building the team ahead of the World Cup. Before the World Cup, we wanted to play a tournament like this (Tri Series) that could help us in building the team. We just wanted to do well in the tournament. This was something very important for all of us. We have to keep doing the right work which we have been discussing.
Image credit: T20 World Cup
India defeated Australia in the group stage but lost in the final in the 2020 edition of the T20 WC. What went wrong at that time, you think?
These things happen. You cannot change whatever happened (in the final). We learnt a lot of things. We wanted to improve on those areas. Everyone is contributing to the game and that’s what you expect from the players. We are not putting extra pressure on anyone but team contribution is something we have been discussing. In the last few months, we have seen some match-winners in the team. That’s why we have been discussing how important everyone’s contribution. It is good to see that every single player is getting involved and doing well. This was something missing in the past. Contribution from each player was important and this is something (which is) visible now.
India are placed alongside England, Pakistan, Ireland and West Indies in Group B. How easy or hard do you think it will be for India to qualify for the knockouts?
I don’t think any game is going to be easy for us. It’s not easy for us to qualify because all the teams really want to do well on the world stage. For us, it is important to do the right work and keep focussing on certain areas. All the teams are doing really well nowadays. We just need to focus.
According to you, which team will pose the biggest threat to India at the World Cup, this time?
All the teams are important. They are doing really well. We cannot take any team lightly. We just want to go there and back our strengths rather than thinking about what others can do. If we can focus on what we can do, that is going to be the key for us.
Image credit: T20 World Cup
In terms of captaincy, which Indian cricketer (male or female) do you admire the most?
For me, Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni. The way they led the team is something I really follow. When Sourav was leading the team, Indian men’s cricket was growing. The way he (Sourav) was changing the atmosphere (in the dressing room) and trusting and backing the players.
Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni
MS Dhoni, we know how clever he was on the field. Today, if you watch his (Dhoni’s) old match videos, you can still learn a lot of things from him. I have learnt a lot from Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni. I always try to pick up small small things that can help me and the team on the field. They have played a big role in my life, when we talk about captaincy.
You have almost 3000 T20I runs and also a century – which knock of yours is your personal favourite and why?
Each and every run is important for a player. Centuries are always important. They are always close to your heart. I give more importance to runs. Whether you score 10, 50 or 100, when you win the game for your team, when your team wins, that makes you more happy. For me, winning runs (runs that help a team win) are always more important than individual runs.
Who will be your go-to wicketkeeper in the World Cup – Yastika or Richa and why?
Both are really good wicket-keepers and have done really well for the country. It’s difficult for me to pick one, but Richa has done really well in the Under-19 World Cup and Yastika is doing really well in domestic cricket. Whenever she (Yastika) has got the chance, she has done well for the team. Both have done well and it’s difficult for me to pick one but whoever is in the best touch at the last moment and suits the combination, we will pick that girl.
Shafali was in tremendous form in the Under-19 World Cup. You must have been happy to see that and must be hoping she carries that form into the World Cup, to help India clinch the title…
Definitely. She has been a key player for us. Whenever she performs, we are always in a better position. I just want her to keep enjoying (her batting) and keep backing herself. Because whenever she is doing these things, she is in better shape. She should keep enjoying (herself), and keep doing the right work. Her teammates are always there for support. She will be a key player for us and I always like to back her.
Shafali Verma (Twitter Photo)
How easy or difficult is it to be an attacking batter in women’s cricket?
Nowadays cricket has totally changed. Everyone likes to play aggressive cricket. It is not easy. It takes a lot of courage, lots of focus and lots of concentration. Nowadays, cricket demands attacking batting. It is good to see a lot of batters changing their batting style. They just brought that positivity in their batting. This is something I really like to watch.
BCCI recently announced equal match fees for men and women cricketers. Your comments…
It is the biggest step taken by the BCCI. I am really thankful to them. This will motivate the players to do well. This will also motivate and inspire other girls to take up cricket as a career. This is a great initiative taken by the BCCI.
You recently said that you are really looking forward to the women’s IPL – the first edition will be played this year. Do you think this tournament can revolutionise the women’s game in India, just like it did for the men’s game?
Yes definitely. When the men’s IPL started, we saw immense improvement in men’s cricket. The amount of talent in men’s cricket has increased too. The same thing is going to happen in women’s cricket also. We are going to see many talents coming into women’s cricket with the help of this Women’s IPL. I am really looking forward to it.
One thing that the IPL has done over the years for the men’s game is giving very talented cricketers the platform they need to showcase their skills eventually helping them play for India – the likes of Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya etc. have all followed this route. Do you think the same can happen for the women’s game via the women’s IPL?
Earlier, there was a bridge between domestic cricket and International cricket. When the players from domestic cricket, after their good show, got the chance in the international scene, took time to settle in with the international players and conditions. It was hard for them. After the IPL, we don’t see that pressure on the players. They always have that confidence and they always look in good touch. And the same thing is going to happen in women’s cricket as well.
After the Women’s IPL starts, we are going to see that change in women’s cricket too. Women’s IPL will cut down those differences in women’s cricket too. When the cricketers (women) will share the dressing room and face them (international players) on the field in the Women’s IPL and then face them on the international stage, it won’t make much of a difference to them and will ease the pressure as well.
If you could change one rule of international cricket, which one would that be and why?
When a player hits a six out of the stadium, it should be counted as more than six runs. Because it takes a lot of hard work and power to hit that big shot. I think that the batter should get more than six runs.
Harmanpreet Kaur (TOI Photo)
(Also) when we hit a boundary and run a single, double or three runs, those runs should also be counted. Those runs can be added to that boundary (four). If we can add those runs (run between the wickets) before the ball hits the ropes for a boundary, that will be interesting.
What does Harmanpreet like to do most when she is not playing cricket?
When I am not playing cricket, I like to spend time with my family. Nowadays, we don’t get much time to spend with family. I spend time with my dogs. When I am home, I don’t go on holidays or outings, I just like to be at home and spend as much time with my family. This is something I enjoy the most when I am not playing cricket.
Your take on your association with Puma…
I am really grateful. I never thought that one day I would be associated with Puma. I was sure that the hard work I have been putting in for so many years would pay off someday. The day has come. It is a big day not just in women’s cricket but in other sports as well. Nowadays, I see most girls, across sports, using Puma shoes and spikes, especially. These things we always needed on the field that Puma is providing. I am really feeling proud that I am going to be associated with Puma. The support, so far, I have got from them is great. They have been so kind to me.