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Virender Sehwag’s praise means the world for women’s cricketer Harmanpreet Kaur

Virender Sehwag’s tweet hailed Harmanpreet Kaur’s heroics in India’s last-ball win of the women’s World Cup Qualifiers final, Kaur says it has encouraged entire team.

cricket Updated: Feb 27, 2017 12:15 IST
Shalini Gupta
Shalini Gupta
Virender Sehwag,Harmanpreet Kaur,ICC Women's World CUp qualidiers
India women’s cricketer Harmanpreet Kaur scored a run-a-ball 41 against South Africa in the ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier final in Colombo, Sri Lanka on February 21.(AP)

When someone like Virender Sehwag lauds you for your match-winning abilities, you know where you stand in international cricket. So, when Harmanpreet Kaur’s penultimate-ball sixer against South Africa gave India the ICC World Cup qualifiers title, Sehwag cheered for the Punjab allrounder. Sehwag tweeted: “You are becoming an idol for future generation of women cricketers. You were extra special. Keep up the spirit and belief.”

The Moga-born Harmanpreet, who has always idolised Sehwag, replied with a simple tweet: “Thank you idol.”

Sehwag the idol

But she is still gushing. “He is a legend. Such words coming from him mean a lot to me. I took to cricket seeing him on TV. It has not only encouraged me but also others in the team,” Harmanpreet told HT.

Finishing a match with a six is usually associated with India men’s team, but Harmanpreet has changed the trend. She starred in India’s one-wicket win in the final with an unbeaten run-a-ball 41.

Needing eight runs off the last two balls, Harmanpreet, who was stand-in captain for the injured Mithali Raj in the final, swatted a six over the mid-wicket and ran two runs on the last ball to walk away with a memorable victory.

“Mithali didi had got injured in the match against Pakistan. Due to hamstring issues, she decided not to play in the final. We got to know this on the morning of the match, so we were a bit alarmed. Although, we had already qualified for the World Cup, but we wanted to win the final too and remain unbeaten in the tournament,” said Harmanpreet, who also played the second edition of Australian T20 Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) with the Sydney Thunders.

“Despite losing Poonam Yadav on the first ball of the last over, I was confident of clearing the ball over the ropes. My partner Rajeshwari Gayakwad had not played a single ball in the entire tournament, so I told her just to hang in there. After the six, she removed her pads and ran hard for two runs on the last ball. And we chased the total of 245 runs,” said Harmanpreet, who was also hailed ‘Lady Dhoni’ on social media after the win.

Blessing in disguise

India had to play the WC qualifiers as they forfeited three matches of the ICC Women’s Championship for failing to play scheduled fixtures against Pakistan due to political tension in 2016.

India's Harmanpreet Kaur (left) and Rajeshwari Gayakwad celebrate after their thrilling last-ball win over South Africa in the ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier final in Colombo on February 21. ( AP )

“India is among the top four cricket nations. We never expected to play the qualifiers. But in a way it was a blessing in disguise. We got to play a long tournament and tested our juniors.

“In place of Smriti Mandhana and Jhulan Goswami, youngsters like Mansi Joshi, Deepti Sharma, Mona Meshram and Devika Vaidya did well. Now we know our bench strength ahead of the World Cup,” said Harmanpreet.

India won all six matches in Sri Lanka and will compete in the World Cup which will be held in England in June.

Mistakes to learn from

Playing for Sydney Thunder in the WBBL-II, Harmanpreet caught the attention with her big hitting. However, she was also embroiled in a controversy when she was charged for breaching the Cricket Australia Code of Conduct during her side’s match against the Hobart Hurricanes in Hobart.

“One learns from mistakes. I should have been careful. The bat slipped out of my hand after I got out but somehow it appeared as if I threw it in disappointment. I would be cautious from now onwards.

“Barring this incident, I enjoyed playing in the WBBL. It was a learning curve for me. When you train with other international cricketers and play in different conditions, the level of your games is raised. I wish more Indian women play in next WBBL season,” said Harmanpreet.

First Published: Feb 27, 2017 12:15 IST