Harmanpreet Kaur - A legend in the making

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Harmanpreet Kaur - A legend in the making

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Rohan Chawla

07/21/2017

Harmanpreet Kaur Bhullar better known as Harmanpreet Kaur single-handedly tore apart the Australian bowling to guide India to a commendable 281 at the end of 42 overs. Kaur's fiery innings eventually paved the way for India's entry into their second Women's World Cup final.

The Indian women's team did not start their innings in the semi-final against Australia on a high, dangling at 35-2 at the end of 9 overs, with runs looking hard to come by. All the Indian fans had their eyes set on Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur who were burdened with the responsibility of rebuilding the Indian innings and were expected to carry the team to a competitive score. However, the sluggish run rate that the innings proceeded with diminished the fans hopes but what they did not know was that it was just the quiet before a storm as Kaur had already set her mind to spearhead the Indian batting with her brutal power-hitting. 

The 28-year old went on to score an unbeaten 171 off a meager 115 deliveries comprising 7 sixes and 20 fours becoming only the second Indian to go past the 150-run milestone. However, Kaur's innings did not come as a surprise to people who are well aware of the gritty and resilient mindset that has forged her into a lethal force to be reckoned with in women's cricket. Kaur had set her eyes on donning the Indian colours at a very early age owing to her father, Harmandar Singh Bhullar's close association with the game. The journey that laid ahead wasn't an easy one as young Harmanpreet had to travel 30kms each day to train in order to make her dream come true. Kaur's childhood coach Kamaldish Singh Sodhi made sure that the vast potential that she had for cricket did not go to waste, taking care of all her expenses including the cost of her commute, her tuition fees at his premier coaching academy, and her cricket kit.   

The encouragement helped Kaur in showcasing her all-around talent at various Punjab Cricket Association camps making her a strong contender for the Punjab senior team. However, a lack of vacancy in the senior team devoid her of a chance of furthering her chances of making it to the national team. Nonetheless, the setback did not stop her from trying to make her dream a reality as she continued her struggle and impressed the selectors with her performances with the U-19 Punjab team that defeated Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir earning her a spot in the North Zone team. Consecutive success in the U-19 Challenger Trophy propelled her into the NCA facility in Bangalore and eventually led to her debut with the senior women's team at the 2009 Women's World Cup in Australia.  

Kaur joined the team as a right-arm medium pacer offering assistance with the bat at the lower end. However, she failed to produce match-winning performances for the team and struggled to cement her place in the national side. The failure led her to focus her energies on her batting skills and on her father's insistence Kaur decided to change her bowling style to off-spin. The decision marked the start of Kaur's transformation into a full-fledged all-rounder.

The 28-year old was handed the reins of the T20 team in the 2012 Asia Cup final after both captain Mithali Raj and vice captain Jhulan Goswami were ruled out of the match due to injuries. Kaur cashed in the opportunity like all others in her past as India defended 81 in the final beating Pakistan to bag their fifth title. The following year, Kaur led the team to an ODI series win against Bangladesh at home scoring her second ODI century averaging 97.50 in the series. The success led to the 28-year old making her Test debut, in 2014, against England in August and she made a definitive impact on Indian women's Test cricket in a match against South Africa in November in the same year scalping nine wickets announcing herself as a specialist bowler to the World as India defeated the Proteas by a convincing margin of an innings and 24 runs. 

Kaur played a pivotal role in India's historic T20 series win against Australia on their home turf in January 2016 scoring 70 runs in two matches as India's most successful batswoman in the series followed by the explosive batter scoring 89 runs and scalping seven wickets in the 2016 ICC Women’s World Twenty20. The never give up attitude earned her the rights to captain the Indian T20 team permanently and although she faltered in her first assignment losing a 3-match home series to reigning champions West Indies, the Punjab player yet again did not let failure pull her down as she led the team to their sixth consecutive title in the following 2016 Asia Cup T20. The 28-year old's whole career is an evidence of her never say die attitude that has helped her scale mountains and her outstanding innings against Australia was just a reminder of the same.

Moreover, the explosive middle-order batswoman maturely weaved a 66-run partnership with Mithali Raj before launching an all-out assault on the Australian bowling showcasing her maturity at the biggest of stage. Kaur, a believer of Virender Sehwag's philosophy of 'hit and run', made major reforms in her batting style after witnessing Ajinkya Rahane calmly and patiently practicing in the nets. Since then, Kaur has grown exponentially as a batswoman taking on the responsibility of leading the Indian innings.

Kaur's merciless bashing did not only win her accolades but resulted in her making history becoming the first Indian player, male or female, to be roped in by an overseas foreign T20 league in Women's Big Bash League where she joined Sydney Thunders. Months later, she became the first Indian woman to be signed in the Kia Super League by Surrey Stars that will commence in England in August this year. 

Kaur is a great inspiration for the budding talent in India be it a boy or a girl and judging by her past record we can only expect another explosive innings full of powerful hitting and merciless bashing from her at the finals of the Women's World Cup against England. Kaur has all the potential to guide the Indian women's team to their first World Cup and add one more gem to her crown.

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