It is impossible not to be charmed by Harmanpreet Kaur. There’s something about that quiet demeanour that screams resilience, strength and character, and you get taken in by all of it.
2022 has been quite a game-changer for Kaur. Post Mithali Raj’s retirement in June, she took over skipper duties of the India women’s national cricket team, and the following seven months saw her add an array of achievements to her roll-call. The Arjuna awardee (2017) is presently India’s most successful T20 captain, overtaking the wins of men’s team’s former captain MS Dhoni and current captain, Rohit Sharma. Kaur is the first Indian woman to win the International Cricket Council’s best player award and has led India to its first series win in England since 1999. The captain’s hat clearly sits well on her.
I ask her what makes her a good leader for the team. “It’s a combination of selflessness, ambition, perseverance and aggression. I believe that whichever responsibility I have been assigned is out of faith and belief. And I do not like to fail. Despite my team’s wins or losses, I ensure they never doubt themselves,” she assures me.
2023 marks her 15th year in the sport, but the memories of her first match are crystal clear. “I was 18 when I started out, and getting selected for the Indian team was a dream come true,” she recalls “My first ODI match was against Pakistan in Australia, and the energy on the field was on another level—it’s the same every time we face Pakistan,” she adds with a smile. The feeling that accompanies a win has been a constant source of inspiration for her over the years. “The kick to my preparation is the visualisation of a winning moment. I like to prepare myself for a tournament with the thought of winning, which is probably why I have achieved so many milestones. Although there’s a lot that is yet to be achieved, as a team and individually, I appreciate and applaud myself for each record. It adds to my motivation’”
Taking us back to what inspired her to be a cricketer, Kaur shares that while she always found herself drawn to the sport, she was unsure if she would ever be able to take it up. “While growing up, I had a strong fascination for sports but was drawn to cricket simply because it was the most televised and popular sport in the country. I always wished to see myself on the television, but I did not have any idea if women’s cricket even existed because I never saw it on television.” While the lack of representation of women in mainstream cricket in the ‘90s made Kaur unsure of following her passion, it made her appreciate stalwarts like Raj, Jhulan Goswami and Anjum Chopra even more. “They were struggling hard to be recognised, and it was their passion that kept them going for all these years. They left no stone unturned to put women’s cricket on the map and ensure that young girls follow cricket and take it up as their career. For all that I have seen Mithali di do, I try my best to provide the right kind of tools and guidance to the young girls who wish to take up cricket professionally.”
For Kaur, growing up in a world without a role model was tough, but she found inspiration in her father. “I have always looked up to him and tried to follow and develop the same habits as him. He has always motivated me to play a sport and supported me in whichever way possible.” Fourteen years later, things are looking positive, and Kaur is especially applauding the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) new pay equity policy. “The announcement has been long-awaited by women cricketers who have been contributing to sport for a while now. It’s high time that this happened, and we, as a team, are ensuring that we do our best to grow tenfold. However, a few other things that need to also happen are an increase in the number of international and domestic matches (for women) and a focus on women’s IPL and domestic leagues.”
At the peak of a successful captainship, Kaur is looking forward to 2023. “I have laid my trust in this new year. I will stick to my plans, and I have complete faith that good results will come my way. I look at life as a gift which I truly embrace and take no day for granted.” And is there some time off that she’s scheduled in the midst of becoming a global champion? “My friends keep complaining about me not taking out time for holidaying with them, and not getting enough space for relaxing and getting that pause which is required after a long work schedule. I’m sure I will have enough time post my retirement to travel to the places that I have on my bucket list. Right now, all I crave is staying at home, eating soul food, and laying in bed all day long,” she laughs.
ELLE India Editor: Ainee Nizami Ahmedi; Photographer: Dolly Devi (feat artists); Fashion Editor: Zoha Castelino; Words: Ainee Nizami Ahmedi; Cover Design: Subodh Shaw; Hair & Makeup: Kritika Gill (feat artists); Production: Imran Khatri Productions; Editorial Assistant: Halah Dawre; Assisted by: Komal Shetty, Kawya Gharat & Sanjali Gupte (styling); Hair & Makeup: Yamini Ranade Location Courtesy: Westin Mumbai Powai
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