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Women's Cricket

'Harmanpreet Kaur still makes me nervous': Former Pakistan player recounts World Cup thriller

Former Pakistan cricketer Marina Iqbal recounts the last-ball thriller from 10 years ago when Pakistan beat India for the first time, and explains why she sees Harmanpreet Kaur in a different light from the others.

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Pakistan celebrate their last-ball win over India in the 2012 T20 World Cup (File Photo/ICC)


Dipankar Lahiri

Updated: 18 May 2022 12:41 PM GMT

Marina Iqbal still gets goosebumps thinking about the last over of that one World Cup match where Pakistan beat India. It was the first time the Pakistan women's team had won against their neighbours - in front of a packed Galle stadium - during the 2012 T20 World Cup.

"I remember Sana Mir changed the field in the last over. There was a misfield and Asmavia Iqbal was sent to the boundary. With four needed off the last ball, the ball went to Asmavia, who put in a great throw to effect the run-out. I charged full sprint from long on to cover the throw," she told The Bridge. Sana Mir herself had the throw covered anyway.

When Jhulan Goswami fell for a 24-ball 21 in this last-ball thriller, 16 were needed from 10 balls. Niranjana Nagarajan struck the first ball of the final over for four and worked a target of four off the final ball but was run out in going for a match-tying third run.

"It has to be one of the best matches in my career. The stakes were higher than ever before. We had never gotten so close to beating India. They were already established in women's cricket by then, we were still unstable. We were very charged up, we wanted to win at any cost," said Iqbal.

Many of the players from that day ten years ago again took the field as India and Pakistan met in their ODI World Cup match on Sunday. The two captains Bismah Maroof and Mithali Raj - and Javeria Khan, Jhulan Goswami and Harmanpreet Kaur are still in the middle of the action. Iqbal, who became Pakistan's first woman commentator, now mostly narrates it.

Marina Iqbal (left) joins the celebrating Pakistan team having charged in from long on (File Photo/ICC)

But even now, Iqbal remembers Harmanpreet very differently from her colleagues Mithali and Jhulan.

"Mithali and Jhulan have always seemed like great friends. As a batter, I used to go up to Mithali for tips, they were both icons of the game already. I would still go up to them with a smile if I meet them.

"But Harmanpreet is a different story. There's always something going on when she's around, be it on the field or off it. She is very competitive all the time. I remember during our Asia Cup matches, Harmanpreet would always be up to something. I'd still feel nervous if approaching her for a talk," she said with a laugh.

"But that's what India-Pakistan is, you have to be competitive. It's a whole different emotion."

'India have a top order advantage over Pakistan'

When Pakistan first participated in the Women's World Cup in 1997 in highly dramatic circumstances, almost no one in their own country knew about it. Not even Marina Iqbal, who was the only girl in her school playing cricket.

"It was only after Kiran Baloch made news in 2004 that I knew we had a women's cricket team in Pakistan. She gave us many of us the inspiration to show the headlines to our parents, asking them to allow us to pursue a future in the sport," she said.

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Back then, Pakistan's appearance on the world stage was a victory in itself. Not any more, with women's cricket having grown rapidly in Pakistan in recent years. With live coverage and social media, there is now much more pressure on the players to achieve results. Beating India at a World Cup is not a fairytale dream any more, it is an expectation held by many enthusiastic fans.

"Social media has brought a lot of added pressure on the women cricketers. With there being more attention now, the expectation ceiling is broken every time they walk out to play. Globally women's cricket is breaking a glass ceiling, as Katy Perry's appearance at the World Cup final showed. Of course, if someone keeps playing well, there's bound to be positive attention," Iqbal explained.

Speaking on how the two teams look on paper ahead of their clash on Sunday, Iqbal said Pakistan have to play their best cricket to negate India's top order advantage.

"Both teams have been in good form, but Pakistan's top order has been struggling for almost two years now. India on the other hand have a dangerous top order. Bismah coming back to lead the team is one of the best things for us, it gives the middle order stability," she said.

Maroof said at the pre-match conference that her return to the team after motherhood feels like a second debut. "It's not going to be easy for her to return after two years and jump straight into a World Cup," warned Iqbal.

Following their win on Sunday, India now have an overall 22-2 win-loss record against Pakistan in limited-overs matches.

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