Harmanpreet Kaur’s real challenge as a captain begins on Friday when India takes on Sri Lanka in Pallekele.

After Mithali Raj quit international cricket a fortnight ago, Harmanpreet was elevated as the ODI captain and the upcoming three-match series will be her first assignment.

Having led India in T20Is for a while, Harmanpreet is not under any added pressure, but is excited for her new role. “This is the first time that I will be the full-time captain in ODIs. But captaincy is something which I have been doing for a long time and I don’t think it is something new that I am doing. I really enjoy this part because when I am leading, I feel more involved in the game and always thinking about it,” Harmanpreet said in a virtual media interaction on Thursday.

“That always gives me a lot of confidence and this is something I always enjoy. So far, we have done so well and as a team, that’s what we would want to continue…”

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By her own admission, captaincy is something that comes naturally to her, and in a new avatar, she wants to make the opportunity count. “Over the years, when you lead the team for a long period of time, things get easy for you and now, I don’t feel extra pressure. If I enjoy as a captain, then the rest can also enjoy,” Harmanpreet said.

“That’s something I have discussed with the team because if you enjoy each and every moment, then things will be easy. I am enjoying it more because I feel free and once you give freedom to a player, she can improve even better…”

Goals

The team looks confident after winning the just-concluded T20I series and Harmanpreet believes that going forward, the focus will be on improving fitness and fielding. “I have always set a few goals for myself when I lead the team, especially the fitness part. For a player, that’s very important. In terms of skills, we have coaches to help us out, but if we can set a goal for the team in terms of fitness and if others get motivated by me, then it will be good for the team,” she said.

Fitness and fielding are the two areas that I want my team to improve. If you can cover these two areas well, then you are the best side - Harmanpreet Kaur

“As a player, I always want to set an example on that front. Fitness and fielding are the two areas that I want my team to improve. If you can cover these two areas well, then you are the best side…”

In the T20I series, Jemimah Rodrigues impressed with her performance and Harmanpreet heaped praises on the youngsters. “I am very excited because these young girls bring a lot of energy to the team, especially when you have someone like Smriti, Jemimah. Yastika is someone who is putting in a lot of effort. When you have players who always want to do well, your job gets easier. Having these people in the club is a great honour for me as they are ready to give 100 per cent. If everyone around you is enjoying, you grow as a team...”

During the World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year, sports psychologist Mugdha Bavare had travelled with the Indian team, and the players had benefited from those sessions with her. While she is not part of the ongoing tour, Harmanpreet hopes that she will be back with the team in the future.

“Mugdha ma’am has been someone who has worked a lot with us. If I talk about myself, during the World Cup, she helped me a lot and I think we do need people like her in the team. Sadly, she did not travel with us on this tour, but in future, we hope that someone like her can always travel with us because we have skilled coaches, but on the mental front, if someone can take care of things, then you can talk to that person, share your thoughts. Sometimes, you need those things…,” the captain said, adding, “In the future, we will talk to our staff and see if we can bring her back. She has done a lot for us and I hope she travels with us in the future.”