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Saturday, Aug 24, 2019

What Harmanpreet Kaur is doing for women’s cricket is remarkable - Sanjay Manjrekar

Sanjay Manjrekar believes that Harmanpreet Kaur’s approach to the game is astounding and that sets her apart from the Indian women’s cricket team players.

cricket Updated: Nov 17, 2018 14:00 IST
Manish K Pathak
Manish K Pathak
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Harmanpreet Kaur (L) in action during the ICC Women’s World T20.
Harmanpreet Kaur (L) in action during the ICC Women’s World T20.(ICC)

After meandering along for quite a long time and after jostling to find its rightful place as a product by itself, women’s cricket got a stage; the 2017 World Cup in many ways was a watershed moment as far as the entire branding is concerned.

The tournament forced the world to sit up, take notice and applaud the ladies toiling under the sun, giving a fine account of their skills. In many ways, they were defying what the famous former England captain Len Hutton had said: “Ladies playing cricket—absurd. Just like a man trying to knit.”

It was no longer absurd, it became the norm, and now in 2018, they have a World T20 all by themselves, not as a sidekick of the men’s event. The players are no longer jostling for recognition, they are slogging to win matches for their countries. And people are following them.

What has changed in women’s cricket?

Former India cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar, who is in West Indies to cover the tournament as a commentator, believes that the biggest change has been the ability to connect with fans.

“For any sport to survive, it is important they have the fan connect, they have people following them. This has happened now and the results are showing. This, and also fitness and the power game, these entities have bolstered women’s cricket,” Manjrekar told Hindustan Times.

READ: India vs Australia: Faf Du Plessis offers tips on how to handle Virat Kohli

“Now there are four to five players who can hit the ball across the ropes. When they are running between the wickets or fielding, the fitness stands out, especially for the stronger teams. For a viewer, to make the transition between men’s and women’s cricket is far more seamless now. “ he further added.

The Harmanpreet factor in Indian cricket

India’s T20 captain is perhaps the most devastating batsman in the shortest format. Her backlift and the ability to belt the ball out of sight is one to behold and in many ways, she is what modern day cricket is all about.

“As far as Indian cricket is concerned, there is the tremendous ability in the ranks. Harmanpreet Kaur is immense, she is truly a great player in the sense that even other countries will be amazed by what she does on the cricket field,” Manjrekar said.

“Earlier too Indian cricket had players who were brilliant, there is no doubting Mithali’s run-making abilities and the way she has carried Indian cricket, but Harmanpreet’s approach to the game is astounding,” he further added.

There was talent, yes, but what has changed in Harmanpreet? From the player with immense ability, she has now become a match-winner for the country. She saunters out to bat, takes guard, susses the conditions and then explodes, it has been quite an amazing transformation.

“See, I had seen her around three years back at the CCI when she was in the team as an all-rounder. A batsman who could chip in with the ball. But, then she always had the game, her batting was always erect. Her balance at the crease was impeccable, and she had the trust that she could clear the boundaries. So, the biggest change has to be the confidence and she has always been street smart. She assesses the conditions in a very astute manner and this has surely helped. She never had to make an effort to play these big strokes, it is just an extension of her basic game,” assessed Manjrekar.

What has been the impact of franchise cricket on women’s cricket?

Despite being world-beaters in their own right, women cricketers had to always splash around for recognition. They went through the grind did everything to become good and yet came second when it came to recognition.

However, according to Manjrekar, the landscape has changed.

“Young cricketers now want to be visible, they want to hit sixes, have the power game and it has seeped over to women’s cricket as well. They now want to be physically fit, run hard. And the fact that they do not play Test matches, so they need not be bothered about the nuances of batting. They can express themselves by hitting the gaps, by hitting the sixes, running hard between the wickets. It all boils down to fitness, and women cricket is certainly getting there.”

The other bright spark from India

“This is a cricketer who is very low profile, very simple looking, very shy, almost slips under the radar - Deepti Sharma. She is an amazing cricketer, you watch her and it feels as if she has got an excellent temperament. She is one pure all-rounder; if tomorrow she can’t bat, India will still pick her as a bowler and vice versa. I do know if the team management really acknowledges the real value of Deepti, but she is one to watch out for,” Manjrekar said.

The enigma of Smriti Mandhana

On her day the left-hander can take your breath away, but then, she often flatters to deceive. For all the talent at her disposal, the southpaw has not been able to translate them into results.

READ: Virat Kohli told to be ‘humble’ by CoA after ‘leave India’ controversy: Report

“Smriti has the gift like Harmanpreet to play the big game, but I don’t know if she has the sharpness like Harman to use the ability. She gets one good innings and then there is a string of low scores after that. I just get the feeling that she gets out trying to justify her reputation, she gets out to bad strokes. Well, she could tone down her attacking game to be more consistent,” the Mumbaikar said.

Importance of Mithali to the team

“I believe Mithali is there in this team to ensure that there are no collapses. She is a very hard batsman to dismiss. She can be the person to bat the entire 20 overs. However, she has to bear in mind that her batting and scoring rate does not hamper the team’s chances and the eventual score ends up being below par. She has to be there in the team, there is no doubt about it, her consistency is quite amazing, but it should not be at the cost of the team. The team management has to do this balancing act,” believes Manjrekar.

Is T20 the format to popularise the sport?

“No, no both 50 and 20 overs. Like Test cricket is the main format for men’s cricket, 50 over can be the pinnacle for women’s cricket and T20 can be the parallel format.”

First Published: Nov 17, 2018 13:44 IST

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