Women's T20 World Cup: Former cricketers back out-of-form Harmanpreet to come good in knockout phase
There is no denying the fact that Harmanpreet Kaur has been struggling with the bat former Indian cricketers believe that come crucial matches the Indian skipper could come good.
The emphatic fashion in which the Indian cricket team marched into the semifinals of the Women’s T20 World Cup surely has infused hope among Indian cricket buffs about the team winning the maiden Women’s T20 World Cup trophy. The Women in Blue put it across defending champions and hosts Australia first up before accounting for Bangladesh, New Zealand and Sri Lanka to maintain a clean slate in Group A. But there is no denying the fact that the batting form of Indian eves captain Harmanpreet Kaur is a cause for concern. The 30-year-old stroke maker has struggled to get going even as her team came to the party and sneaked into the knockout phase with aplomb.
Harmanpreet came up with not-so-inspiring scores of 2 (vs Australia), 8 (vs Bangladesh), 1 (vs New Zealand) and 15 (vs Sri Lanka) in the group phase. The manner in which the right-hander has got dismissed would clearly indicate the lack of clarity in her thought process. Rewind to India’s opening game against Australia, where the Indian skipper stepped out to execute to bludgeon left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen only to be beaten in flight and stumped by Healy. During the second tie against Bangladesh, Harmanpreet chased a wide ball from Panna Ghosh against Bangladesh and was easily snapped up at backward point – against New Zealand the Indian captain offered a tentative caught-and-bowl opportunity to Leigh Kasperek. She showed flashes of getting some form against Sri Lanka, hitting two fours and a six in her knock of 15 before she holed out in the deep off the bowling of Shashikala Siriwardene.
The T20 format hasn’t exactly been a purple patch for Harmanpreet over the past twelve months or so. (Image: BCCI)
Without trying to sound overly critical of Harmanpreet in the ongoing T20 Women’s World Cup, the appalling accumulation of 26 runs in four innings has thrown up questions whether the national team can afford to keep firing in the knockout phase minus meaningful contributions from the captain.
The T20 format hasn’t exactly been a purple patch for Harmanpreet over the past twelve months or so – the stroke-making batswoman has just managed two forty-plus scores in her last 19 innings – her unbeaten 42 in the Indian team’s win over England in the T20 Tri-Series Tournament prior to the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup and her knock of 43 in the first ODI against South Africa at Surat were worth mentioning innings – in fact, she endured seven single-digit scores in her last 19 innings.
Jaya Sharma - former Indian opening batswoman and a member of the 2005 World Cup team that finished runners-up losing to Australia in the final, said the Indian team would hope Harmanpreet fires on all cylinders in the knockout phase. “Look, loss of form is part and parcel of every player. The key is not to deviate from your original game. I’m not able to see any rhythm and confidence in her batting - I think it was visible from her body language.”
Jaya, whose unbeaten 138 against Pakistan in the 2005 Asia Cup at Karachi, remains India’s third-highest individual ODI score, shared her perspective of how captaincy responsibility playing its part. “She has been leading the team for a long time now, but I’m not sure if she is not able to cope with the pressure of delivering as a captain as well as a batswoman,” added Sharma.
Jaya who played 77 ODIs for India from 2002-2008, was happy to see Harmanpreet bat at number three against Sri Lanka. “She has been pushing herself down the order in the first three games something I failed to fathom, especially since she hasn’t been among the runs as the only way to correct your form is by playing as many balls possible in the middle,” noted the 39-year-old former international cricketer.
Another former international cricketer and national women cricket team selector, who requested anonymity, feels that there is nothing technically wrong in the way Harmanpreet is batting. “Every cricketer goes through this cycle of being in-form and out-of-form – look at Virat Kohli – even he is struggling in the Tests in New Zealand. Harmanpreet likes to settle in and then get aggressive but whenever she has tried to up the scoring she has got out. I don’t see anything amiss in her batting – she has to stay focussed and runs will come – it is a matter of getting into the twenties and thirties and I’m sure Harmanpreet has reserved her best for the knockout phase.”
India’s first international women cricket captain Shanta Rangaswamy believes the knockout phase could spur her to deliver. “She is a type of player who is unstoppable if she gets going. Her form is a concern, but hopefully, she would turn it on in the knockout phase. Having said that, you must understand that she does not have much consistency but has the ability to produce a ‘classic’ once in a while,” she observed.
The former top-order batswoman said it is a matter of one innings as far as returning to form is concerned. “Harmanpreet is just one inning away from coming back to form – sometimes it can be about one ball – the ball hitting the bat giving a good feeling. She needs to hang in there and I think a big knock is due. I’m happy to see her bat at number three against Sri Lanka because if you are out of form you need to spend as much time possible in the middle and she did exude positive intent. The fact that the team is doing well despite her low run of scores actually augurs well for the team,” she opined.
Indian cricket buffs would hope for not just a form-returning but also a match-winning knock from Harmanpreet in the T20 Women’s World Cup knockout phase!