Harmanpreet Kaur (L) scored 171 not out during the Women's Cricket World Cup semi-final against Australia in Derby on July 20.(AP)
Harmanpreet Kaur (L) scored 171 not out during the Women's Cricket World Cup semi-final against Australia in Derby on July 20.(AP)

Harmanpreet Kaur, from despair and rejection to cricket glory

Harmanpreet Kaur grabbed all the headlines after her majestic knock of 171 not out which propelled India into the final of the Women’s Cricket World Cup.
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Shalini Gupta
UPDATED ON JUL 22, 2017 11:53 AM IST

Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Kapil Dev are among many of the Indian cricket superstars who have tweeted about her. While now that the world sees a star in Harmanpreet Kaur, dig deep and the story that emerges is one of sacrifice, despair, rejection and then triumph.

Growing up in the dusty bylanes of Moga, in a typical lower-middle class family, Harmanpreet Kaur always wanted to play cricket. And in spite of her parents, father Harmander Singh Bhullar and mother Satvinder Singh Bhullar, putting in all at their wherewithal for their daughter, it still fell short.

READ | Harmanpreet Kaur heroics give Indian women’s cricket unique identity

Her 34-year-old coach Yadwinder Singh Sodhi recalls: “Even after playing for India at a very young age, and having done well, Harmanpreet Kaur was struggling for a job. We requested Punjab Police to employ her, we even met former Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal a few times, but all we got in return was ‘You are a female cricketer. There is no scope for any employment with Punjab Police’. She went through all this.”

Harmanpreet didn’t give up and based on former cricketer Diana Edulji’s recommendation, she finally got a job with Indian Railways, helping her tide over financial strains that may have destroyed her willingness to become a champion.

“The rejections may have actually made her strong,” Yadwinder, now based in Adelaide and coach at Port Cricket Adelaide Club, insists.

“I remember talking to the DGP (Parminder Singh Gill) and asking him to induct her as DSP in Moga but he said that she wasn’t a Harbhajan Singh but just a woman cricketer. I requested him to hire her as an Inspector at least, but even that plea was ignored.”

READ | Women’s World Cup: ‘England unstoppable at the moment but can’t write India off’

Incidentally, Harmanpreet was first spotted by Yadwinder’s father Kamaldeesh Singh Sodhi, who owned a school in Moga.

Kamaldeesh not only extended financial support to Harmanpreet, but also convinced her parents to let their daughter pursue cricket.

In 2005, when the Indian women’s cricket team played their first World Cup final against Australia in South Africa, Harmanpreet’s tryst with cricket began at Gyan Jyoti Public School. She was admitted in Class X, exempted from all the fees and provided with free bats, shoes and kit by the Sodhis.

In the next four years, she made the right noises with her big hitting abilities which landed her an India debut against Pakistan in 2009.

READ | Women’s cricket secure in India: Former players laud performance in World Cup

“We had opposition from the society and a few relatives who could not relate to the idea of a girl playing cricket. But we pushed Harman with a progressive mind. After the BCCI took over women’s cricket, things started looking up. She was passionate for the sport and went on to shine for India on debut. My chest swells with pride,” her father Harmander told Hindustan Times.

In May, the BCCI had also recommended Harmanpreet’s name for the Arjuna Award along with Cheteshwar Pujara.

The 28-year-old Harmanpreet became the first Indian to be signed for the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) by Sydney Thunder and now will be playing in the T20 Kiya League in England next month.

“Social media has helped Indian women cricket team gain popularity. The way Twitter exploded on Friday on Harman’s fiery innings, our girl from Moga is hogging all the limelight,” concluded Kamaldeesh.

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