Shubhangi: 'Harman is a big match player'

Former India captain Shubhangi Kulkarni speaks about Harmanpreet Kaur's blistering knock against Australia, Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami among other things related to the Indian cricket team.

"If we win the finals this time, it will be our (best-ever performance)," says former India captain Shubhangi Kulkarni.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Former India captain Shubhangi Kulkarni described Harmanpreet Kaur’s unbeaten 171 off 115 against Australia in the ICC Women’s World Cup semifinal in Derby as "brilliant" and said that the latter is a "big match" player. She also told Sportstar that  England will be under pressure in the final to be played at Lord’s, before boarding a plane to London on Friday.

Excerpts of her interview:

India has been quite remarkable in reaching the final, beating New Zealand and Australia in the last league match and semifinals, respectively. Is it the team's best ever performance in World Cups?

We have reached the final of the World Cup 2005 in South Africa and lost against Australia. If we win the finals this time, it will be our best.

Mithali Raj has been in the forefront. She's the mainstay and became the first Indian to score 1000 plus runs in World Cups and the highest run getter in ODIs (6000 plus runs)...

Mithali has been outstanding ever since she began. Her batting figures say it all. She is a very stylish player with amazing determination, discipline, focus, all that is required to make a champion. The fact that she is able to score (these many) runs when a lot of players of her age have hung up their boots speak about her abilities. We expect her to score a 100 every time she goes out to bat. We are lucky and proud to have her on our side.

Harmanpreet Kaur has finally come in to her own. How would you describe her batting against Australia?

Brilliant! Harman is capable of playing the big innings and huge shots. Her batting is fearless and the reputation of the opposition or bowler doesn't bother her. She's a big match player.

The other century makers are  Smriti Mandhana and Poonam Raut; Smiriti started off well, but seems to have gone into a rut after the century against West Indies.

Smriti is one of the most exciting batter in women's cricket. She's young and will learn from the mistakes she made in this tournament. I am quite sure she will work on her weaknesses and better her game. Poonam has been around for some time. She works on building her innings. Smriti, Poonam, Harman, Dipti Sharma, Veda (Krishnamurthy)  and of course Mithali make our batting look formidable.

Jhulan Goswami did well against New Zealand and Australia.

Jhulan has been performing for many years. She has been consistent throughout her career. Although she didn't do too well in a few earlier matches, she is a great champion. We needed her to do well against the top teams like Australia and I am glad she did. The bowlers in the team look to her for inspiration and she is a good role model.

The spinners have done well too.

Yes... Ekta Bisht, Poonam Yadav, Dipti Sharma and Rajeshwari Gayakwad have all played a huge role in this World Cup.

The format of the World Cup — round-robin league among 8 teams then the knock out —  must have made it tough on most teams.

It gave everyone a fair chance. Also if a team  had  one bad day, they still had the opportunity to come back;  so eventually the best teams reached the top.

How are the expectations against England, whom India beat in the opening match?

India has beaten England and hence expectations will be high. I also feel England will be under pressure to win in front of the home crowd.

What about the team playing the final at Lord’s?

A dream come true for those who will play there!  It's huge for women's cricket, playing at the home of cricket and in front of a capacity crowd. If india wins here, it will be a game changer not just for Indian women's cricket but for the sport; just like the Indian men's team winning the World Cup in 1983 was.

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