Harmanpreet Kaur Bhullar is the Captain of the Indian women’s cricket team in T20 internationals. She is an all-rounder, and became the first woman cricketer in India to score a T20 century in a match against New Zealand in 2018. She was honoured with the Arjuna Award in 2017, the second highest sporting honor in India after the Khel Ratna.
In 2016, Harmanpreet Kaur became the first Indian woman cricketer to sign the Big Bash League (the Australian T20 cricket league) contract with Sydney Thunder. In October 2019, during the series against South Africa, Harmanpreet also became the first Indian cricketer to play in 100 international Twenty20 matches.
Harmanpreet Kaur was born on 8th March 1989, in Moga, Punjab, to Harmandar Singh Bhullar, a volleyball and basketball player, and Satwinder Kaur. Her trajectory as an athlete is inspiring and her journey is filled with moments that underline what it means to thrive in an industry that is largely male dominated.
Embarking on the journey of cricket
In her ‘Breakfast with champions’ interview, Harmanpreet Kaur reminisces that she was always interested in the field of sports in general, and cricket in particular. Since her school days, she used to play different sports ranging from volleyball to football.
She played with boys at the time and that is when the principal of her school Kamaldeep Singh Sodhi noticed her, and put together a girl’s cricket team in the school, which she said was flabbergasting for her, since she had never witnessed girls playing cricket before that.
Joining the Gian Jyoti School Academy, one of the only two cricket training centers for girls in Moga, was the turning point in her journey. She says, “Cricket aisa tha T.V pe bahut aata tha. Aur saare jitne bhi idol hote the, Virender sehwag ko bachpan se maine follow kara hai, Cricket he khelna hai.” (Cricket is a sport that is broadcasted on television more frequently and since childhood, I have always idolised and considered Virender Sehwas as my source of inspiration. Hence, I was more inclined towards that particular sport)
She made her One day international (ODI) debut in march 2009 at the age of 20, in a match opposite the Pakistan Women’s Team, and was able to bowl 4 overs conceding 10 runs. In June 2009, she played her first T20 Internationa against the England Women’s Team and scored eight runs off seven balls.
Harmanpreet Kaur is known for her remarkable ability to hit the ball beyond the boundary after her performance in the 2010 T20, in a match against England Women’s, where she scored a quick 33. She was also made the Captain of the team during the Women’s T20 Asia cup in 2012, when the present Captain Mithali Raj and the Vice Captain Jhulan Gosawmi were battling injuries.
Her landmark achievement was in the 2nd Semi final of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017, in the match against Australia, where she was able to score a 171 not out. Though the team was not able to win the World Cup of 2017, she said, “India mai jo women’s cricket ki kami thi, matlab jab koi bhi ladka paida hota hai sab bolte hai cricketer bane, ladkiyon ko uss nigah se nahi dekha jaata, ki isko koi sport khilana hai, toh hum ne woh cheez shuru kar di.” ( After the World Cup, there was some sensation about women’s cricket in India. Men are expected to engage more in physical activities and sports, but women are usually not perceived in the same manner. Even if we did not win the World Cup, we were able to bring a slight change in the thought process of the people and presented to them a new perception)
Harmanpreet said, “Earlier, some of my father’s friends used to come to see me off at the airport [before overseas tours] and say – ‘Why do you need to attempt big hits when you know girls do not have power to clear the rope? Take only singles and doubles, na?'”. She says, “I used to keep quiet. After watching last year’s World Cup, they started believing that maybe my team-mates and I can clear the rope.”
In March 2021, Harmanpreet Kaur became the fifth Indian woman cricketer to represent the country in 100 ODI matches. In September 2021, she was signed by the Melbourne Renegades, an Australian women’s T20 franchise.
Harmanpreet’s career graph is one that inspires many athletes, especially in a country like our’s where it is not easy to step out of the gender boundaries that are imposed by the society upon every individual. Women in sports, like most other fields, face extra pressure to prove themselves and be taken seriously.
Harmanpreet Kaur is an inspiration for every young girl to pay no heed to the stereotypical comments and opinions of the society, and to push themselves closer to pursuing what they would want to.
Featured Image: Hindustan Times