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In praise of Harmanpreet Kaur

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Harmanpreet_Kaur_India_CricketHarmanpreet Kaur set the cricket world on fire with her once-in-a-lifetime innings against defending champions Australia in the semi-final of the ICC Women's World Cup 2017. The first Indian cricketer to sign up in the Big Bash league, Harmanpreet was no stranger headlines in the past. But this innings was beyond all expectations. 

Walking in at 35/2 in the 10th over of the innings, Kaur looked strangely subdued as she crept to 19 from 39 balls in the company of her skipper, Mithali Raj. Australians know her all too well. They had applauded her when she walked out on her Big Bash debut and had applauded even louder when she played some outrageous shots. 

There was definitely something brewing. Kaur is not one to remain restrained, but what unfolded over the course of the following overs was beyond all compare. She went on a rampage, playing some precise drives and scoops at first before unfurling a flurry of boundary shots with a mix of class and power. From 41 off 60 balls, she raced to a 90 ball hundred. 

No, she wasn't celebrating. She was shouting at Deepti Sharma at the other end for almost running herself out. She had a hundred to her name, third in her ODI career. But it wasn't over. She wasn't going to let Australia come back into this game.

 

From 100 off 90, Kaur went completely berserk, finishing on 171 from 115 balls, effectively sealing Australia's semi-final hopes. A spectacular drive off Schutt had started the knock. A powerful airborne drive off Jess Jonassen showed the urgency in the innings but the last few overs were out of this world. 

 

India haven't seen any player, male or female, hit a knock like this one in a World Cup knockout game. Harmanpreet Kaur had grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. The noose had tightened around the fearless Aussies. Not since 2005 had the Indian Women made it to the finals of the World Cup, but Kaur had made it possible, against all odds.

Understandably, Twitter was all praise for Kaur and her scintillating innings. 

From Kapil Dev to Sachin Tendulkar to Virat Kohli, everyone was all praise for Kaur's unforgettable knock. Wasn't it an absolute treat to watch? She was in complete control of her shots right through the innings. Some of the straight drives she played were right out of the textbook. 

To put things into perspective, she scored 71 in her last 25 balls. Australia are a ruthless side. They have six World Cups in Women's cricket history, the most by any team. An ordinary score would not have taken India to the finals. Kaur knew it quite well. The only way they could put Australia's famed batting order in pressure was by scoring an extraordinary amount of runs. 

This spurred Kaur on. At one stage she smashed 44 in 12 balls, including 3 sixes and six fours. The knock bore a strong resemblance to Yuvraj's 12 ball half-century against England in the 2007 T20 World Cup. In fact, Yuvraj himself took to Twitter to congratulate Kaur. 

Several of India's young guns also congratulated Harmanpreet Kaur for the best innings by an Indian in a World Cup. This is doubly positive as she is yet another role model for young cricketers of all genders across the world.

The legends weren't far behind either as Ian Bishop, the former West Indian pace bowler, hailed it as the "greatest" he had seen in Women's ODIs. Ravi Shastri also expressed his appreciation by calling Harmanpreet a "rockstar". Former India coach, Anil Kumble also had words of praise for the outstanding performance. 

Before this innings, she had faced 181 balls in the whole tournament. She watched as Mandhana, Raut, Mithali Raj and Ekta Bisht hogged the limelight during the league phase of the World Cup. But she wasn't worried. Her turn would come. 

She said,

 

I didn't get a chance to bat in the whole tournament. Today when I got the chance I just wanted to utilise it, this opportunity, because today was the day where I wanted to prove myself, and thanks to God, whatever I was thinking, worked.

 

Initially, she did not seem like someone with a plan as she dug into the hapless Australian bowlers. But the manner in which she took pressure off Deepti Sharma and took responsibility for the innings was a lesson in One Day batting. After the group stage loss to Australia, Mithali Raj had commented that India weren't equipped enough to beat teams on big occasions. This knock from Harmanpreet Kaur has put all doubts to rest. Over to the finals against England! Rock on, ladies!

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