She has done this in the past. When Harmanpreet Kaur gets into a scoring zone, it is a sight to behold. In her own words, she thinks a lot about the game and sometimes that can put too many thoughts into an athlete’s head, making decision-making hard. But every now and then, a day comes along when they are one with the surroundings, the focus is so strong that nothing else matters.
At one point of time during Harmanpreet’s innings on Saturday, commentator Harsha Bhogle summed it up perfectly. “At the moment she is completely oblivious to the fact that fielders are allowed on the ground, she is seeing only spaces,” he had said. When she hit that four, it was the FOURTEENTH of her innings off the 28th ball she faced. A boundary every two balls. She finished with a sensational 65 off 30 balls to light up opening night of the Women’s Premier League.
MI went on to beat Gujarat Giants by 143 runs in what would turn out to be an one-sided opener, but there was no dearth of quality from the team in blue. And so, on another momentous occasion for the women’s game, Harmanpreet stepped up and sparkled under the spotlight.
One immediately thought of her WBBL debut in 2016. Or the 2017 World Cup semifinal when her 171* stunned Australia and onlookers alike. Or the 2018 T20 World Cup opener, when the ICC was venturing into new territory by hosting a standalone women’s edition, and she scored a century to give everyone the confidence that, yes this will work. Or the Commonwealth Games final. Or even the recent T20 World Cup semifinal.
When the stakes are high, Harmanpreet is capable of producing something extraordinary.
During a phase in the Mumbai Indians innings Harmanpreet went 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4 for a seven-ball sequence spread across two overs. And not a shot was hit in anger. It was all calm, calculated and composed batting. She identified gaps in the field, and pinged them like she was batting with a radar fit in. The shots through offside are often an indication of how well she is batting, and there were plenty of those.
But it is the sweep shot that is her bread and butter, and it was once again on display. The range that Harmanpreet has with that shot is perhaps unmatched in the game right now. She can deftly place it fine just past the keeper and go well past midwicket and even close to long on with her sweep. And Georgia Wareham was finding it out the hard way. One of the early boundaries in her innings came when Beth Mooney yelled “good ball!” from behind the stumps as Wareham corrected her line to off-middle. But after hitting a fine sweep the previous delivery, Harmanpreet swept this to deep square leg. Mooney’s words hung in the air as the ball sped to the fence.
“I am someone who thinks a lot. My mind is continuously thinking,” Harmanpreet said after MI’s win.
“When I am more calm and in the moment, it gives me a lot of clarity. To be in that zone is not easy for me. I just keep talking to myself and I don’t need to think too much and stay in the present. I just need to keep backing myself. When I am in that zone, I know which areas to pick. In the zone, things are easy for me.”
And how did she get into that zone? The MI captain said a relaxed team atmosphere played its part, when actually, it could have been so easy to get distracted by the occasion it was at DY Patil on Saturday night.
“Today was one of those days when I was more relaxed. Our team is brilliant. Everybody is so positive, only talking about what we have to do. We are only backing each other and when your character is like that, your job becomes easy and you can just go and enjoy yourself. That is what really helped us today,” she added.
It has not been the easiest of weeks in Harmanpreet’s career. At the end of the T20 World Cup semifinal heartbreak in South Africa, she sat in front of the media, still reeling from that bizarre run out that effectively handed Australia the win. She felt she was unlucky, some disagreed. But what is undeniable was the pain of that moment, as she told the press she didn’t know how long it would take for her to get over it, before choking up in tears.
But when she came out to bat in Mumbai on Saturday, she picked up from where she left off before the run out happened. The rhythm was so evident, the timing so pristine, the placement exquisite. She said that perhaps not having the time to practice, or think too much about the semifinal with all the WPL commitments helped her subconsciously. But whatever it was, Harmanpreet Kaur provided the metaphorical fireworks on a night to remember for Indian cricket.