“Two things in India are religion – one is cricket, and one is movies – these are two things.”-Preity Zinta
When she was young her father had brought a suit with cricket words on it. Some years later, she started playing the game with boy trainees at the college ground. Initially, it was tough as the bats were costly and she could not afford them. But later, she would play for Punjab at a young age and also made her debut for the India while in high school. It is my privilege to present Harmanpreet Kaur (27), who has become the first Indian woman cricket player to be selected to play for Sydney Thunders in the Women’s Big Bash League (BBL), Australia’s domestic T-20 cricket league. She was India’s hero on 20 July 2017 as India beat six-time champions Australia to reach the final of the ICC Women’s World Cup.
Her father Harmander Singh was a club cricketer. She used to watch him play. Though she hails from Moga where women’s cricket wasn’t played, it was her father who encouraged her to play the sport and take it up as a career. She gives the credit of her success to her father. He supported her since the time she picked up a cricket bat.
As a kid, when she saw male cricketers on TV, she silently dreamt of playing the sport. She considers herself lucky that she never faced problems from her family. Everybody supported and encouraged her to do whatever she wanted. She has been playing cricket from the age of six. She didn’t realize that over the years the dream turned into a passion. She is a fitness freak, she exercises every day. She had to stay away from her family when she was very young. She started playing professional cricket at 17 and had to stay away from her mother, which was emotionally taxing.
A young Harmanpreet was spotted by Coach Kamaldeesh Singh Sodhi who would train her at the Guru Nanak Public School, Moga. The cricketer would travel 20 km from her Basant Singh Road residence to Barapur Pind to practice and would later also travel to Ferozepur to play for the district in the Punjab state Championships. A fine performance in 2009 Challenger trophy meant she entered the Indian women’s team for 2009 World T-20 Championships.
“I saw her play in 2006 and got her enrolled in our school team Once she went to play in school nationals and hit six boundaries in an over in a full size ground. Later she would play in Punjab U-19 teams when she was 17. It was our school’s annual function when she got the news of her selection in the Indian team in 2009. And when she hit her first hundred in 2013 against England, the whole village celebrated her success,” shared Sodhi, whose son Yadwinder Singh Sodhi also coached Harmanpreet.
“When she picked up her jersey, she chose the jersey number 84. For Punjabis, 84 brings back the memories of the 1984 riots. But she took it positively and now we also see it as a good sign for her,” said Harmanpreet’s mother Sukhjeet Kaur. “She dedicates all her victories to the victims of the riots.”
Harmanpreeet played an exceptional performance in Indian women’s team campaign in the World T20, scoring 89 runs and claiming seven wickets in four matches. The all-rounder has scored 1,494 runs in 55 ODIs and 992 runs in 61 T-20s apart from claiming 24 wickets in both formats.
Harmanpreet learnt to control her anger and use it in her performance, which has paid dividends. “I learnt that anger is best used for one’s game and not on people,” she emphasized. When asked, what has the sport given you? She replied, “Cricket taught me a lot of things, but the biggest has been to shoulder responsibility I like to give my 100 per cent in whatever I do. The sport has made me the person I am today. It has given me a lot of confidence and instilled love for my country.”
When asked “If you were to rewind the clock and go back a few years, would you still choose to play cricket? ” She replied “Yes. Cricket is my life. My father encouraged me to take up the sport, even though we did not have facilities for women. I used to play with boys. That’s how I became stronger. If not cricket, I could have taken up hockey .It was my dream to wear an India jersey with my name.”
Harmanpreet Kaur would be one of the 17 sportspersons who will be receiving the Arjuna Award from the President of India .“For a sportsperson, any kind of recognition from the government is welcome and it boosts your confidence. Getting Arjuna Award is a dream for any sportsperson,” said Harmanpreet on the sidelines of an event.
“You cannot ignore education since it is a very important part of life, but if we add sports to our daily lives, it helps us keep fit. I don’t know why sport cannot be taken up professionally. There can be a good future in sports if kids are guided properly. Having said that, every person has different personal interests. It is important to teach today’s youth the importance of staying fit. Schools should make sporting activities compulsory. If you start playing as a kid, you understand the importance of sports when you grow up and could consider taking it up as a career” said Harmanpreet signing off.