Hail Harmanpreet and her heroics!

It’s not often that one gets compared to Virat Kohli, that too, right after playing a knock that was so Dhoniesque — picking up eight runs in two balls. But by now, the fun-loving Harmanpreet Kaur is used to it all.

A file picture of Harmanpreet Kaur.   -  AP

 

As she tossed her bat into the air after scoring the winning runs, Harmanpreet Kaur couldn’t control her emotions. Not that she was weeping, but the 27-year-old from Moga ran towards her non-striking partner Rajeshwari Gaekwad, hugged her tight and then threw a kiss towards the dressing room.

There wasn’t any valentine waiting for her there.

But the whole team stood up, waved back at its stand-in captain, and some of them even chanted a name that’s normally heard in men’s cricket circuit — ‘Virat, Virat…’

It’s not often that one gets compared to Virat Kohli, that too, right after playing a knock that was so Dhoniesque — picking up eight runs in two balls. But by now, the fun-loving Harmanpreet is used to it all.

“They (teammates) often call me Virat. That’s their way of showing love,” says Harmanpreet while speaking to Sportstar on Wednesday evening en route to the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo.

Even as she speaks, the voice sounds sleepy. And she admits that after playing one of the ‘most memorable innings’ of her life, she could hardly sleep. With Indian eves clinching a nail-biting final at the World Cup Qualifiers, the social media was abuzz with her feat, with everybody comparing her finishing abilities with that of Dhoni’s.

“It feels good when one compares you with someone like the (former) Indian captain. Ever since I have taken cricket seriously, he has been dominating Indian cricket. But…,” Harmanpreet pauses, and then completes the sentence, “…if you are talking about my favourite cricketer, then that has to be Virender Sehwag. Dhoni, Virat inspire me, but even yesterday, when the runs were drying up, I kept on thinking about how Viru paaji would have handled the pressure.”

Those days in Australia taught me a basic lesson — if you can adapt to the conditions, you can do anything. That’s what I believe these days.

But then, at the P. Sara Oval on Tuesday afternoon, Harmanpreet had almost crumbled under pressure. Leading the side in the absence of Mithali Raj, she suffered an injury in the middle. And then, with the required run rate sky-rocketing, she had to go for the shots. “I may sound very happy now as we speak, but it was quite a nervy situation yesterday afternoon. I knew there was no way I could rotate the strike. With the pressure mounting, Rajeshwari wouldn’t have been able to pull it off,” she says.

“For a moment, I thought I would break down. The tournament hadn’t gone too well, so even I was unsure whether I would be able to pull it off,” she says, adding: “Basically, the pressure had gripped me.”

That’s when she remembered Sehwag. “When you idolise someone, you can’t help but recollect that name at the time of crisis. That’s how I remembered paaji,” she laughs, before quickly adding: “But after I hit that six, even at the back of the mind, I knew it was more like Dhoni. That’s how he would have finished off.”

With two runs required off the last ball, there was no way they could goof up. And being a senior batswoman, she had instructed Rajeshwari to run quickly ‘the moment the ball would hit the bat’. “There was no other option. We couldn’t afford to wait and think or react. We just had to run. Rajeshwari knew what she has to do — just sprint,” the jovial Harmanpreet, who is now ranked second in the ICC rankings, says.

Perhaps, that’s why the teammates find her a tough nut to crack. Ask any of the women cricketers and they would agree that when it comes to inspiring colleagues, the Moga girl can do it the best. “Not that much,” Harmanpreet replies shyly, adding that it’s the love of her colleagues that keeps her going. “With Mithali not around, I had to lift the morale. So, for that if they call me a Virat, I take that as a compliment,” she says with a smile.

In middle of the conversation, the telephone network goes for a toss. “That’s because, we just entered a bad-network area,” she explains a minute later, after dialling back.

Before the tournament she had barely spoken to her parents. The reason is as unique as her approach towards the game — ‘inability to score runs’.

“I was not in a mood to talk. What would I tell the folks at home? The runs weren’t coming, and then there was injury. I was in tatters, almost,” she explains. But as she reaches home on Thursday morning, she is ready to make up for it. “After a few days’ rest, I am off to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) for rehabilitation. After that, I will start preparing for the World Cup,” she says.

But as the winning feeling sinks in, Harmanpreet agrees that participation in the Women’s Big Bash League has helped her improve the game. “Those days in Australia taught me a basic lesson — if you can adapt to the conditions, you can do anything. That’s what I believe these days,” she points out.

With the Qualifiers over, most of the players would go for a quick break. So would Harmanpreet. Before rushing to Bengaluru, she too would cool off a little, watch a few films and also keep a tab on how Indian men tackle Australia.

Well, you can take a cricketer off the ground, but not her cricket!