When Harmanpreet Kaur broke into the India’s women’s cricket team way back in 2009, she looked out of place. With so many established cricketers in the squad, the young Harmanpreet did not know how to warm up to her teammates.
But then, two seniors – Jhulan Goswami and the then captain Anjum Chopra – made sure the youngster felt comfortable in the new set-up. They would communicate with her regularly and provide her with all the support she required.
Years later, as Harmanpreet gears up to lead Mumbai Indians in the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League, she wants to create a similar environment for the youngsters, so that they can walk up to her anytime and express themselves.
“It is very difficult for a young player coming into the team to communicate with the senior players. I remember this from my early days. Now I am sure to reach out to them and speak with them because when I got into the Indian team, Jhulu didi (Goswami) and Anju didi (Chopra) made me comfortable. They were the ones who came up to me and spoke with me. They were also very keen to know about me. This is something that I have learned from them and I try to follow the same thing here with the other girls,” Harmanpreet said.
“Previously, I did not get enough time or opportunity to get to know more about the domestic players and talk to them; like what kind of cricket they want to play and what kind of improvement they are seeking. We have someone like Sonam Yadav in the Mumbai Indians team, who played in the U-19 World Cup recently and I spoke with her yesterday. She was asking me questions on how she bowled in a couple of practice matches that we had and what I thought about her bowling.”
Being the captain and most-experienced player in the team, Harmanpreet, who’s also fondly referred to as ‘Harry didi’ by teammates, patiently listened to Sonam. And not just that. As she observed the youngsters, Harmanpreet also suggested a few things to them.
“We also have (Dhara) Gujjar. She did really well in the practice game. Her approach towards the game, how she was running between the wickets… a lot of positives around. As a senior you also get to learn a lot from young players. This platform is important for everyone and it is nice to see the way young girls are approaching and coming up with so many questions,” she said.
As the tournament progresses, Harmanpreet is confident that more players will walk up to Jhulan for suggestions. “We have Jhulu di, who is deeply involved with the girls. She already knows most of them as she was travelling with the Bengal team in domestic cricket. She knows them very well. She has shown trust in them. I think it is important for us to stay together since it is a short tournament and we are going to play back-to-back matches,” she said, adding: “Winning and losing is not in your hands but staying together and creating a positive environment is something which is always in your hands and that is what we want to continue with.”
Having played in overseas leagues like the Women’s Big Bash League and The Hundred, Harmanpreet knows the importance of proper communication with overseas players. “I think we are having a lot of team activities. When you have fun together, that gives you an opportunity to get to know each other. The overseas players are very friendly. There are some players who cannot speak English. I remember when I went to WBBL, I could not speak much but I went out of my comfort zone and learned this language. This is important because when you speak well, your confidence level goes up and I think if you add it to your daily routine then you will be more confident. The overseas players try a lot to make our young girls comfortable and the last two practice games that we had, gave us a lot of confidence because they communicated well because if we directly go and play there are more chances to make mistakes,” Harmanpreet said.
“But in practice, we were able to cut down the mistakes. This is something which is more important and we take it very seriously. As players, when you communicate better you are always going to do better and during the practice games, we were able to understand how our domestic players are going to communicate with overseas players.”