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Women's Cricket

Harmanpreet Kaur hopes to inspire girls as she pulls Indian families to WBBL

Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur is hoping to inspire more young girls to take up cricket and join academies.

Harmanpreet Kaur WBBL Melbourne Renegades

Harmanpreet Kaur (Source: Melbourne Renegades)


Mrinal Asija

Updated: 1 Dec 2023 8:43 PM GMT

Victoria, Australia: The last time Harmanpreet Kaur played in the Women’s Big Bash League before the ongoing season, she was named the Player of the Tournament.

The Indian captain was not only the leading run-scorer for the Melbourne Renegades, but also took the most wickets for them and guided the team to a second-place finish in the round-robin stage, which is their best-ever performance.

Harmanpreet’s experience also meant that she had an important responsibility within the leadership group

. Young captain Sophie Molineux was seen consulting Kaur on the field numerous times. It didn’t come as a surprise when the Renegades snapped her back in the first-ever WBBL draft ahead of the current season.

With Molineux missing the season as she recovers from an injury, the Renegades handed the captaincy to the West Indies skipper Heyley Matthews and she too turned to her Mumbai Indians captain for discussions on game strategy.

However, apart from her all-round abilities and leadership skills, Harmanpreet has had another role to play during her time at the Renegades.

Kaur was the only Indian player picked in the WBBL draft this year, and with the BCCI’s restrictions on its male players to play in overseas franchise leagues, she is the only one representing the cricket-mad country in Australia this summer.

As a result, members of the India diaspora have been turning up in big numbers to the Junction Oval in Melbourne, and grounds around Australia, to watch the Indian captain play in the WBBL.

Cricket Australia has made a sustained effort to promote the WBBL as a family-friendly tournament, making entry free for children and organising activities to engage kids at the grounds.

Cricket lovers from the Indian community too have been bringing their children to the games to introduce them to the sport.

For young girls, there cannot be a better stage to see where they can be in the sport and Harmanpreet recognises the role she can play in inspiring them to take up cricket.

“We just want girls to come and play and that has been our responsibility from day one,” she said while talking to the media at the Junction Oval.

Kaur is hopeful that the growth in the women’s game will encourage more girls to play cricket.

“It has been good to see so many girls coming here and hopefully, they will take this sport as an opportunity because now women’s cricket is also growing and we have seen a massive change, even in India, where so many girls are now joining cricket academies and playing at the domestic level,” she added.

Saahil Sharma, who moved to Melbourne from India with his family two years back, took his three-year-old daughter Hazel to a few WBBL games in the city to watch the Renegades play.

“I'm a cricket fan, so I wanted to feel the atmosphere (at the games), and I like a lot of Australian players… Perry, Lanning… and even Harman was here, so we were excited to watch them,” Saahil said, adding that he also wanted to introduce Hazel to women’s cricket.

“She has started watching a little bit of cricket with me, so she can recognise a few players like Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. Now that I’m watching these games with her, she’ll start picking up the women’s names as well. That's the whole idea of taking her to the WBBL, so that she at least gets to see that.”

While at the games, Saahil encouraged Hazel to try hitting some balls in the batting activation at the activity zone for kids. He carefully guided Hazel how to play the strokes, just like he has been doing at home with the autograph bat he got at the MCG during the Boxing Day Test in 2021.

“I took her to the Ashes Test with me, but at that time she was very young and didn’t understand much. But now with that autograph bat, she has started picking up the game and she is trying to hit a few balls. She likes batting and bowling both,” Saahil remarked proudly.

While Hazel likes going for swimming and gymnastics right now, Saahil says he will start looking for cricket clubs for her to enrol her when she is five or six years old. For now, he is enjoying the fan experience and taking his family to the games, something he has found much easier and more welcoming in Australia.

Harmanpreet Kaur too was all praise for the cricketing environment Down Under. “The cricket atmosphere here is totally different to other countries and they have a very good, a very strong base here. Hopefully, some Indian girls who live here will also take this sport as an opportunity and play for Australia,” she said with a smile.

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