On July 20, 2017, many didn’t know that the Indian women’s cricket team was playing Australia in a World Cup semifinal. Harmanpreet Kaur’s bat made the noise for people to stop outside electronic stores while returning from work, surf live scores on their phones and count the number of boundaries. She hit 20 that day.
The unbeaten 171 off 115 balls beat stereotypical perspectives that only men can do the hitting. It transformed how the stakeholders – spectators, broadcasters, sponsors – looked at women’s cricket.
The girls have been unlucky at World Cups. The ICC World T20, starting February 21 in Australia, is a fresh challenge for a side that has all ends covered.
Seven years ago, when Sachin Tendulkar played his farewell Ranji Trophy innings, against Haryana at Lahli, a young Shafali had sneaked in. Scoring a crucial 79 not out, the legendary batsman took Mumbai home; what the youngster carried back to her study table was inspiration.
Every day, she would wait outside Tendulkar’s guest house for a chance to meet him.
Incidentally, at 15 years and 285 days, she scored her maiden T20I fifty (73 off 49 balls) against West Indies and broke Tendulkar’s record of being the youngest to register a half-century in international cricket. The former India captain had scored his maiden Test fifty at 16 years and 214 days.
Shafali Verma. – GETTY IMAGES
Shafali is the destructive opener India needs at the top.
She grew up playing cricket with boys in Rohtak, and developed the physical strength required for the aerial strikes. The 78-ball 124 against Australia A in 2019 marked her arrival. With that lightning bat speed, there is bound to be more.
Been there, done that, senior batswoman Smriti has already declared that she is going to approach the World T20 like any other tournament. She wants to keep it simple and enjoy her game. Having played in the Women’s Big Bash League and the Kia Super League, the left-hander is aware of the strengths of most international bowlers, which will be beneficial for India.
Mandhana has the elegant drives and is proficient against spinners. She can take any bowler to the cleaners. The only thing missing in her otherwise impressive resume is a T20I hundred. A World Cup will be the perfect platform to shine higher.
The Sangli girl, who won the Sportswoman of the Year (Cricket) at the Aces Awards for two years in a row, will have Shafali as her opening partner.
Before cricket came calling, Jemimah was selected for the U-17 Maharashtra hockey team at the age of nine. Even though her parents run a science and maths tutorial in Bandra in Mumbai, there is no added pressure on her to stand out academically.
The 19-year-old is a complete T20 cricketer. She can score 70 runs by smashing a quick 50 and saving 20 while fielding. The multi-sports discipline and training – hockey and cricket – turned her into an electric athlete. The boundary line catch against South Africa in 2019 is a validation of her supreme fitness.
Jemimah Rodrigues. – FILE PHOTO/ VIJAY SONEJI
She is quick between the wickets and looks to score off every delivery. It need not be big hits but the ones and twos will keep coming. That unbeaten 112 off 58 balls for Yorkshire Diamonds in the Kia Super League will provide her the much needed fillip as she embarks on her second World T20 tournament.
Agra is known for the Taj Mahal. And these days, for the cricketers it has been producing. Leg-spinner and Arjuna awardee Poonam Yadav is on top of the list. She paved the way for Deepti Sharma and the India U-19 wicketkeeper Dhruv Jurel.
Poonam is the highest wicket-taker for India in T20Is with 85 wickets in 62 appearances (as of January 30, 2020).
Poonam Yadav. – FILE PHOTO/ VIJAY SONEJI
Poonam can be used in the PowerPlay and beyond; she generally tosses up the ball and relies on the flight. She can throw down the wrong uns’ when the batsman is in a hurry to score. Conceding a six or two is fine, but she ensures a wicket.
In the ICC World T20 in 2018, she was the joint leading wicket-taker from India with eight dismissals in five matches.
Moga in Punjab is known for the wrestling and bodybuilding culture. Harmanpreet may not lift heavyweights or topple human beings on a mat but she derived her power from the surroundings. The World Cup semifinal century, 171 off 115, followed by the World T20 ton two years ago, 103 off 51 against New Zealand, stamps the class of the skipper. She had scored 183 runs in five outings in the last edition; she will be hungry for more this time around.
Harmanpreet is the fulcrum and the mode of inspiration for all the youngsters in the side. The 30-year-old – around for a decade – is the most seasoned campaigner in the side. Not to forget the right-arm off-breaks which can be quite handy in the middle overs.
She was the first woman from India to land a Big Bash League contract in 2016.