On Wednesday, India’s women’s team routed England by 88 runs in the second ODI to win their maiden limited-overs series in the country after 23 years. The visitors had won the first ODI by seven wickets to take a 1-0 lead, and by winning the second match, they sealed the series with one match to go.
India’s victories were orchestrated, with the help of other players, by the captain Harmanpreet Kaur who scored unbeaten 74 and 143 respectively. Harmanpreet has been a fine performer for India in the last 10 years but in 2022, she has taken her game a notch above.
The sprightly batter has already scored 750 runs – the most by her in a year – in 2022 in the ODIs at a staggering average of 62.50. Till now, she has thumped two centuries and five half-centuries in the year at a brilliant strike rate of 90.25. Only South Africa’s Laura Wolvaardt has racked up more ODI runs than her in 2022, but her average (49.00) is much less than Kaur’s.
Another notable stat is that Indian Women have scored more than 300 runs in ODIs twice in 2022, and on both occasions, Harmanpreet cracked hundreds. This clearly evinces that she’s the lynchpin of Indian batting and the team banks on her to score big totals.
While Smriti Mandhana is an amazingly flamboyant opener and is usually instrumental in lending breezy starts to the team, Harmanpreet is the cornerstone of the batting line-up who skillfully guides India through the middle and death overs.
In the 2nd ODI against England, India were stuttering at 99-3 in 19 overs after a fine start. But Mandhana and Yastika Bhatia reeled off fine cameos but were back to the pavilion. It was a crucial juncture of the match as one more wicket would have given a massive advantage to England’s bowlers.
But Harmanpreet isn’t a stranger to such delicate situations. She batted with appreciable patience and finesse to craft an excellent 113-run partnership for the 4th wicket with Harleen Deol. While Deol was a little more adventurous and played a flurry of sparkling shots, Harmanpreet was more measured and nudged the ball around to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Only after they had pulled India out of the quagmire, Harmanpreet started to tee off. She brought up her fifty in 64 balls by smiting the off-spinner Charlotte Dean for a six in the 37th over. Wonderfully adept at pacing her innings, Harmanpreet took only 36 balls for her next 50 runs as she cantered to her fifth ODI ton in 100 balls.
After reaching her hundred, she went on the rampage and blasted the next 43 runs off just 11 balls. The cadence and tempo of her innings lucidly underlines her creditable ability to craft masterful innings. This also drives home the point that Harmanpreet is a rare breed who can build an innings meticulously and can also be a marauder when needed. Because of her glittering innings, India made 333-5 in 50 overs and buried England under the weight of the mighty total.
Not too long ago, Harmanpreet largely relied on sweeps and slog-sweeps to gather runs, especially against tweakers. But in the last couple of years, she has evidently expanded her repertoire and now whips out a wide range of shots.
Of the four sixes she clouted, two came off exquisite inside-out shots over extra-cover. Because of her fascination with sweeps, bowlers tried to bowl wide outside the off-stump to curtail her favourite shot, but Harmanpreet demonstrated that her skills are up to the task. In fact, throughout her innings, she sliced, pulled and cut with aplomb and made a grand demonstration of her rapacious range as a batter.
In the first ODI, Harmanpreet lent stability to India’s 228-run chase as she joined forces with Mandhana to carve out a 99-run alliance which ensured an easy win for India. Throughout the chase, she oozed calm and looked unhurried and scored an unbeaten 74 off 94 balls.
The captaincy has certainly helped her raise her game and she is perhaps in the best phase of her cricketing career. At 33, Harmanpreet has many years of international cricket left in her and her aim must be to win a marquee ICC tournament for India by deftly marshalling her troops.