Harmanpreet Kaur, struggling with stomach cramps, decided to deal with boundaries and sixes in her innings against New Zealand during the ICC Women’s World T20 opening match (Pic: Twitter, ICC World T20).
Two matches in, Indian women’s cricket team is well positioned to make it to the semifinals of the ICC Women’s World T20. Here are our three talking points from two sublime performances by the Women in Blue.
Almost exactly two years ago, in a Women’s Big Bash League match in Sydney, came the moment that perhaps forever changed the way the shortest form of women’s cricket was thought across the world. Granted there had been several stars before this moment ever arrived and granted, the moment itself was in a losing cause. But still…
The moment itself was uncommonly nonchalant. Harmanpreet Kaur — India’s current captain — was making her debut in the league that day. It was a debut for any Indian cricketer in the league, ever. At the time, despite the hype surrounding her signing, truth be told, she was far from the most famous Indian woman cricketer in the world. Mithali Raj had the runs, Jhulan Goswami the wickets. The duo’s decade long experience made them faces for Indian women’s cricket across the world.
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Harmanpreet took guard and settled in. Down on one knee, grace intact, fragility be damned, she lifted the ball deep over the cover boundary for a six. Even the bowler Gemma Triscari couldn’t help but laugh. It was unimaginable. Even while sixes were becoming more common in the women’s game, this graceful, technique-driven sublime hit was very rare.
In England, at the Women’s World Cup last year, Harmanpreet had another seminal moment, smashing a century in the semifinals that left the Australians hapless. But all of that, basically led to this... The opening game of the WT20 last weekend. New Zealand against the Indians. And Harmanpreet did what she does best.
Harry to her teammates, provoked a lot of commendable hashtags in the socialverse (the most memorable of which remains #Harmonster). And she had her own monster to battle that day in the form of stomach cramps no less. Running became a problem. She couldn’t do the quick singles and easy doubles. And so she went Monster. Lofted drives, monstrous big hits were followed by delicate jabs, and inch perfect flicks. She had her century without much fuss.
In the first game of the first ever standalone Women’s T20 World Cup, Harmanpreet Kaur brough the TRPs in. The game was on.
A unique situation presented itself in India’s game against Pakistan. Even before India walked on to bat they had 10 runs on their scoreboard. A Diwali bonus if you will. The ten runs were courtesy of Pakistan being docked twice for running on the pitch. Later in the day, Ireland were docked five runs for the same in their game against Australia.
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While the penalties were unique on their own, it must also be mentioned that umpires were cautioning players about this, all day. Pakistan received three warnings before their penalties. Mithali Raj (whose match winning innings propelled India to a second consecutive win) received what she termed a ‘friendly warning’. Umpires also kept a tight leash on running during the Australian innings against Ireland.
This level of scrutiny is necessitated by the wear and tear the pitches are taking because of the scheduling. TV camera positioning demands that all games being played on the same day use the same pitch. Three games were played on the opening day of the tournament in Providence. Two have been scheduled for each day's play for the remainder of the group stage. The two semifinals are also scheduled to be played one after another at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua on November 23.
At this level of cricket, perhaps the ICC would’ve done well to get a few more venues in. Or simpler, leave some grass on the pitches to begin with, so that they don’t completely bald by the end of the day’s play. In any case, Australian captain Ellyse Perry felt it was an issue only in the opening rounds, and as the tournament progresses, everyone would acclimatise. Regardless, one can only hope that the standards of umpiring remain consistent.
There are new stars in the Indian women game. Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Veda Krishnamurthy are just a few names that roll of the tongue for modern day viewers. Slogging away, is a stalwart though who shows no sign of stopping. Mandhana and Harmanpreet are hugely talented, hard hitting modern age cricketers, with a penchant for outrageous over the sublime.
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In the mix, to sometimes give pleasure to older eyes is Mithali Raj. Everyone knows that it’s fun to bat. Raj, makes it look so very good. All the dropped catches earlier in the day by the Indians, and the absurdity of the Pakistani running, was put on the backburner as Raj brought out the beauty reel. 56 from 47 balls, this was not a blitzkrieg effort.
Seven fours, meant it wasn’t a slow one either. The game was wrapped up with an over to spare. And the crazy thing is no one wanted it to stop. Because her batting is just so so good.
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