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Harmanpreet Kaur’s Knock Revealed the Spirit of a True Champion

Despite an injury, Harmanpreet refused to quit and powered through to a record-breaking 171 against Australia.

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The bowlers changed – Megan Schutt, Ellyse Perry, Jess Jonassen, Ashleigh Gardner, Kristen Beams, Elyse Villani. Their bowling attacks and variations changed. Fielding positions changed. More fielders in the circle, then on the leg-side, then on the off-side.

The second fiddles changed – Mithali Raj, Deepti Sharma, Veda Krishnamurthy. The weather changed, from cloudy to sunny. The pitch conditions changed, from damp to dry. And oh, even the stump microphones changed.

But Harmanpreet Kaur’s sheer dominance in India’s women’s World Cup semi-final against Australia stayed, and it changed the face of Indian women’s cricket forever.

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Our own wonderwoman, wielding her bat like a weapon of mass destruction and banishing her guns proudly through the Indian National Cricket Team jersey slaughtered the best bowling attack in women’s cricket with glorious shots, sending the ball flying in every direction like little missiles.

All of that in a World Cup semi-final, while the goosebump-inducing ‘Jai Ho’ played at the background.

No, there could not have been a prouder moment in women’s cricket. No, pardon that error. There could not have been a prouder moment in Indian cricket.

There Was No Quitting for Harmanpreet

What defines a champion player? There may be different perspectives to that answer, but Kaur gives us a new one.

“Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion”. This evergreen quote by Muhammad Ali was what we just saw at Derby. Harmanpreet simply refused to quit.

Carrying an injury, she scored an unbeaten 171 off just 115 balls, which was laced by twenty fours and seven sixes. It is difficult to ascertain the method Kaur used to construct an innings like that, on an occasion like that, against the opponents like that. It was all too unreal, for the opponents – the six-time World Cup winners, the title defenders, who were on a red-hot winning streak in the tournament – were the clear-cut favourites.

Despite an injury, Harmanpreet refused to quit and powered through to a record-breaking 171 against Australia.

But Kaur didn’t quit. That, despite her second fiddles walking out without substantial support. That, despite her cramps. (You will keep reading about her cramps throughout this article. It deserves repeated mentions. Yes, she scored 171 runs even though her legs hurt.)

Her historic innings began with two heavenly drives, one through cover and one straight back, and from there on, the show just got better and better!

Again, what defines a champion? The hunger, the passion, the anger. Harmanpreet ferociously pounced on Deepti Sharma when the non-striker was almost on the verge of causing her own run-out.

Harmanpreet’s anger was backed by her hunger to win. That, in fact, was proof that she was not leaving the field until the 42nd over, no matter what, quite a champion-like trait.

She scored more than 60 percent of India’s total target. She played through her cramps, she suffered the pain, only to live the rest of her life as a champion.

Despite an injury, Harmanpreet refused to quit and powered through to a record-breaking 171 against Australia.
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Who Would Have Imagined a Toothless Australia?

Many who occupied the seats at the Derby ground were envisaging a blinder from Australian captain Mag Lanning, or from all-rounder Ellyse Perry.

Lanning, who has 328 runs in five innings at an average of 109.33, had just returned from an injury. All eyes were on the skipper, who was expected to deliver another marvel. But that didn’t happen. The No 1 batter on ICC’s ODI rankings had to walk back after an 8-ball duck, courtesy Jhulan Goswami’s magical delivery.

There was no Perry power too, something we saw throughout the tournament. The No 1 name on the ICC all-rounder rankings could do little to stop Harmanpreet’s madness.

In her nine overs, she leaked 40 runs, and remained wicketless. With the bat, she could muster only 38 runs until Shikha Pandey dismissed her.

Despite an injury, Harmanpreet refused to quit and powered through to a record-breaking 171 against Australia.
Meg Lanning had to walk back after an 8-ball duck, courtesy Jhulan Goswami’s magical delivery.
(Photo: AP)
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Stop the Comparisons, Please

No, Harmanpreet did not replicate a performance by Kapil Dev in the 1983 World Cup, when he scored an unbeaten 175 against Zimbabwe. Her cover drives didn’t remind us of Virat Kohli. Her unwavering determination was not a flashback of Anil Kumble’s 10 wickets that the spinner took with a broken jaw.

It was just Harmanpreet, and her alone.

Why compare women cricketers to their male counterparts? Harmanpreet’s show was unique, and it will go down in history books.

And clearly, the women don’t enjoy the constant references made to men’s cricket. Because we don’t ask the boys who their favourite female cricketer is, as the Indian skipper pointed out.

For that matter, Harmanpreet’s knock should remind you of Deepti Sharma’s masterful 188 earlier this year, against Ireland in a Quadrangular series.

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The Lesser-Known Harmanpreet

The right-hander was born on 8 March 1989. Her first significant innings was against Australia in the 2009 Women's World Cup, when she scored an unbeaten 19 off eight balls.

She smashed her maiden ODI century in 2013 against England. The same year, she was made the captain of the ODI team for the tour of Bangladesh when Mithali Raj was nursing an injury. In 65 ODI innings, the middle-order batter has scored 1,974 runs, including three centuries and nine fifties.

Despite an injury, Harmanpreet refused to quit and powered through to a record-breaking 171 against Australia.

Later in 2013 came her T20I debut against England in the ICC Women's World Twenty20. She is also the current captain of the T20 format, in which she has 1,223 runs from 60 innings laced with four half-centuries.

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She made her Test debut in 2014, against England. Given that Test cricket is only a seasonal format in women’s cricket, Kaur has played only three innings from which she has 36 runs.

In her first Test, she scored nine runs and a duck. However, what stands out in her career in whites are the nine wickets she claimed against South Africa in her second Test at Mysore in 2015.

Despite an injury, Harmanpreet refused to quit and powered through to a record-breaking 171 against Australia.

In all the three formats combined, the part-time offspinner has 43 international wickets under her belt.

Kaur was the first cricketer to play in Australia’s Big Bash League. She could muster only 300 runs playing for Sydney Thunder, but her experience of playing Down Under sharpened India’s knife in the semi-final. She is also the only Indian cricketer to sign a contract with Surrey Stars in English Cricket Board's Kia Super League.

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Her 171 against Australia is the highest score for an Indian woman cricketer in World Cups.

If you may allow exaggeration one last time, the knock came against the best bowling unit in women’s cricket, in a World Cup knockout game, and when the scorer was suffering from cramps in her legs. Kaur has just turned a corner, and let us ensure it does not fade away any time soon.

(Umaima Saeed is a self-confessed introvert who binges on cricket and lets her writing do the talking.)

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