Harmanpreet Kaur’s 51-ball century against New Zealand in the ongoing Women’s T20 world cup, follows her spectacular 171 not out in last year’s World Cup semi-finals against Australia where she single handedly steered her team to victory. This piece in Cricinfo’s The Cricket Monthly, profiles her life and career and highlights the impact she has had on raising the profile of women’s cricket not just in India but world over and how it has dramatically narrowed the gap from men’s cricket from the perspective of the cricket fan.
A former state-level basketball and handball player, and club cricketer, Harmandar raised Harmanpreet “like a son”, because “I wanted her to be the athlete I couldn’t be…When Harman used to come with me to the evening cricket matches, many from the neighbourhood said, ‘Ladki ko khilaake kya karoge?’ [What will you get by making a girl play cricket?] But I never cared about what others had to say.”
Harmanpreet is a batting allrounder who modelled her aggressive style of play on that of her idol Virender Sehwag. But it was watching the India men’s Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane’s restraint at a nets session in 2016 that taught her the value of patience. And though her popularity in the cricketing landscape is nowhere close to Rahane’s, the fact that posters of both players (who are ambassadors for a leading sportswear brand) came up at the National Cricket Academy’s refurbished gym earlier this year is not bereft of symbolism. It represents the post-2017 World Cup era for women’s cricket in India, one with Harmanpreet at its centre.
Despite the second-place finish (in last year’s world cup), India’s breakout campaign brought much needed visibility to the team, and to the women’s game at large. The tournament’s 180 million reach, according to the ICC, included a 500% increase in viewing hours in India since 2013. The overall viewership for the final touched a record high of 126 million in India – as many people as watched the 2017 IPL final. On the web, #WWC17Final was the most tweeted hashtag for a women’s sport final.
“She just raised the bar high enough to see what’s possible,” says former Australia vice-captain Alex Blackwell
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