In an interview with Hindustan Times, Harmanpreet Kaur discussed her experience at the Asian Games, the upcoming home season for Team India, and their preparations for the T20 World Cup next year.
Following India’s historic gold medal win at the Asian Games, their first-ever participation in the multi-sport event for this discipline, Harmanpreet Kaur and her team have a busy December ahead. The BCCI recently announced that India will play a multi-format women’s series against England and Australia. The most significant revelation was that, for the first time in nine years, India will be playing a Test match on their home turf. Harmanpreet was part of the one-off Test match in 2014 when India defeated South Africa. While she eagerly anticipates the upcoming Test match in December, she expressed regret over the team’s lack of experience, especially at the domestic level. Since that match in Mysore, India has only played two red-ball games in international cricket, one against England and the other against Australia in the summer of 2021.
In an exclusive conversation with Hindustan Times Digital, Harmanpreet discussed her experience of participating in the challenging Asian Games, the action-packed home season awaiting Team India, and their preparations for the T20 World Cup next year. She also talked about her longstanding partnership with sports brand PUMA and their ‘Let There Be Sport’ campaign.
Here are some key excerpts from the interview:
Q) In cricket, the World Cup and Asia Cup are considered the ultimate contests for India. However, the Asian Games is a unique tournament. How was your experience, and was it different from other tournaments?
A: In other tournaments like the World Cup or Asia Cup, we have league games leading to the semis and finals. However, the Asian Games posed a unique challenge because we started directly in the quarter-finals. In most tournaments, there’s always a chance to bounce back and change strategies if needed. But in the Asian Games, every game was crucial, and we had to win them all to secure the gold. It was quite challenging in that regard, but the cricket and our mindset remained the same.
Q) Where does winning the Asian Games gold medal rank in your list of achievements, and has the significance of this historic feat sunk in yet?
A: Winning a gold medal is always a special achievement for any athlete. Participating in the Asian Games was a dream come true because when we were growing up, we never imagined that we’d have the opportunity to participate in the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, and now even the Olympics. So, as cricketers, this was something we hadn’t considered. When we learned that we could play in the Asian Games, our team was thrilled and aimed to win the gold for our country. I’m grateful that things turned out the way they did.
Q) We’ve heard discussions about having a Women’s Premier League (WPL) for years. This year, we saw the U19 women’s World Cup for the first time. Could you shed some light on this route and the benefits it could bring to Indian cricket?
A: Junior-level cricket is invaluable for the development of the senior team because it helps in identifying and nurturing talent from the U19 level. Having a Women’s Premier League (WPL) is something we’ve longed for, as such leagues, like The Hundred and the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL), provide an excellent platform for cricketers to express themselves and learn from their overseas counterparts. The U19 level is crucial, and it’s fantastic that the U19 World Cup took place this year, which was a significant achievement for our team. Many talented players have emerged from our U19 level and have now become a part of the senior team, with some even participating in the WPL. I’m confident that we’ll see more young athletes at the junior level who can contribute to the senior team and bring a wealth of talent to the squad.
Q) You’ve had a longstanding association with PUMA. How has this partnership impacted your mindset and the growth of women’s cricket?
A: PUMA has become like a family to me from day one. They have worked tirelessly to elevate women’s cricket to the next level. They’ve engaged in numerous associations and campaigns to raise awareness that cricket is a sport for everyone, not just for men. They have initiated many campaigns and activities, not just for me but for all athletes. They have been proactive in working with young athletes who can make significant contributions to Indian sports. Even at the Asian Games, many PUMA athletes won medals, demonstrating PUMA’s support for all athletes, not just me. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to work with a brand like PUMA, which has been incredibly supportive. Whenever we need assistance, they are readily available and are dedicated to customizing our shoes and clothing to meet our requirements. They listen to their athletes and are always willing to make the necessary adjustments. I’m thankful for this opportunity to work with them.