July 2017 – Harmanpreet Kaur’s sheer dominance in the ICC ODI World Cup game between India and Australia spiralled the sale of women’s cricket jerseys in the stores. She scored an unbeaten 171 off just 115 balls, which was laced by twenty fours and seven sixes. That, despite struggling with cramps in her legs. Her 171 is the highest score for an Indian woman cricketer in ODI World Cup.
November 2018 – She batted as elegantly as she did in the aforementioned innings. This time too, in an ICC event. A six-laden 51-ball 103 from Kaur took India to a 34-run win over New Zealand in the opening game of the World T20. That, despite struggling with stomach cramps and back issues. Her 103 is the highest score for an Indian woman cricketer in World T20.
“Yesterday, I was having a little bit of back problem. And in the morning I was not feeling well. And I think when I came to the ground, I was feeling a little low and getting some cramps. Later on when I went for batting … when initially I was running two runs, I got a cramp, and after that physio gave me the medicine and then it settled down,” revealed the 29-year-old after her monstrous knock.
Harmanpreet smashed ball after ball into orbit, and with each of those shots, the batting monster redefined Indian women’s T20I cricket. What stood out in her marathon innings was her timing and clarity – she went from 50 in the 15th over to 100 in 20th. The skipper walked in to bat when India were 40 for 3 in 5 overs. Kaur started the innings slowly – was 5 off 13 balls at one stage, and then the beautiful range of shots, which included eight sixes and seven fours, saw her become the first Indian woman cricketer to score a T20I ton. She took her time to settle down, but once she did, Kaur switched gears and was unstoppable.
To further bring out the superiority of her innings, here’s a quick stat – No team has scored eight sixes in women’s World T20 history, but Harmanpreet alone did it.
Experience of playing franchise cricket transformed her
Kaur earned acclaim in T20 when she became the first Indian cricketer (male or female) to play in Australia’s Big Bash League. Later, she also became the first Indian woman cricketer to play in the English Cricket Board’s Kia Super League.
Kaur was the Thunder’s leading run scorer in WBBL|02. From 22 matches in 2 seasons, she has 403 runs and 9 wickets as well.
“I think the transformation definitely happened after (Kaur) played in the WBBL,” Mithali Raj said in an interview.
“That exposure, she and Smriti (Mandhana – who played with the Brisbane Heat) gained a lot of knowledge of interacting with other players, against Australia it was they who were giving us more inputs about these players.”
More players need to be signed up by foreign T20 leagues in which they can exchange ideas and follow tips from other experienced players. It will only help improve women’s cricket in India and the squad for the upcoming ICC events will be even stronger.
Twitter salutes Kaur’s maiden T20I ton
From Virender Sehwag to Rohit Sharma, Vivian Richards to Amitabh Bachchan, social media went into overdrive to laud Kaur’s blockbuster innings, something that the women cricketers were not too used to until the 2017 ODI World Cup.
Jeet se shuruaat. Diwali Dhamaka by Harmanpreet Kaur and a very comfortable victory for India in their opening match of the World T20. Congratulations girls @BCCIWomen #IndWvsNZW pic.twitter.com/DOgZ3FzQ2o
— Virender Sehwag (@virendersehwag) November 9, 2018
— Vivian Richards (@ivivianrichards) November 9, 2018
T 2990 – Congratulations India Women Cricket T20 team .. victory over NZ and Century by Harmanpreet Kaur, first Women to score 100 runs in T20 pic.twitter.com/L7iG9h0Yy0
— Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan) November 9, 2018
The best tweet came from commentator Harsha Bhogle, who regretted having missed the match and Kaur’s innings.
“Not a good day to be out. Looks like I am missing something special from Jemima Rodrigues and Harmanpreet,” his tweet read.
Not a good day to be out. Looks like I am missing something special from Jemima Rodrigues and Harmanpreet!
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) November 9, 2018
So, that is how Kaur has transformed women’s cricket. Prior to her batting excellence, fans had only passing interest in the game. But now, nobody wants to risk not watching something that can be folklore in the coming years. A decade down the line, you may be reading on how Kaur established women’s T20 cricket in India, and you’d love to resonate with it. So do not miss the upcoming matches of the tournament.
With New Zealand beaten, India’s next game is against Pakistan on November 11. Let’s cheer for the women in blue louder than ever.