Harmanpreet Kaur’s 171* and the start of a new era in Indian Women’s Cricket

On 20 July 2017, the stage was set for a World Cup semi-final, a star-studded Australian team were up against India for a spot in the finals. At the Derby cricket ground there came something unexpected that blew Australia apart as the six-machine from Moga, Harmanpreet Kaur was on song.

 

Harmanpreet Kaur played a match-winning knock of 171 Runs against Australia in 2017 Women's World Cup
Harmanpreet Kaur played a match-winning knock of 171 Runs against Australia in 2017 Women’s World Cup

 

It was a day when parents wished their daughters grew up idolizing Harmanpreet Kaur and young girls wanted to play the sport to hit slog sweeps over the fence for sixes. The Harmanpreet Kaur knock of 171*(115) had given birth to a new era of Indian Women’s cricket on this very day.

Women’s cricket was starting to gain a bit of popularity among Indian fans, people wanted to watch the sport but maybe the highlights were wrongly doing them justice. It wasn’t before Harmanpreet Kaur smashed Australians out of the World Cup in the semi-final with her now very famous unbeaten knock off 115-ball-171 that got people starting to follow women’s cricket, parents wishing their daughter’s repeat the famous Harmanpreet Kaur innings and most importantly got the Indian public to get serious about Women’s cricket in India.

Watch the highlights here

The message the knock delivered was that women’s cricket is exciting, the Indian set-up is growing strong and we are ready for expansion. It was a knock that set the tables right for the BCCI to focus on women’s cricket and left fans wanting more.

What happened exactly on 20th July 2017?

It was a typical English summer day that saw rain interruption which had the match reduced to 42-over per side. India having won the toss opt to bat but lost early wickets and it was Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur who steadied India’s ship. Harmanpreet Kaur had her intentions clear and wanted to showcase her natural aggressive style and did it to one of Australia’s best Megan Schutt to throw out a message. India beautifully built the partnership that had a full stop put by Kristen Beams who struck Mithali Raj on 36 and the crucial 66-run partnership was broken. Mithali’s exit brought Harmanpreet more in the play and she decide otherwise, to open up and in regular intervals smashed a minimum of a couple of fours off and a six or two to the Aussie bowlers in the surge process. She also hit a monstrous one that travelled the distance and went out off the ground. It simply was an unbelievable knock under pressure and in extreme pain that Harmanpreet had in her wrist, fingers and shoulders.

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Women’s cricket before Harmanpreet Kaur’s knock was alive in India, but was breathing hard and wasn’t moving forward, it was stationed for long and a turnaround was required and thankfully it did come. From an audience point of view, the knock changed India’s mentality towards cricket as a whole. Men following cricket felt a check on scores, a read the next day in the newspaper or a highlights package doing justice to them was to be proved wrong and it did. Harmanpreet Kaur got them to show this as in women’s cricket is a to be watched live, is exciting and there’s the same fightback and courage that in men’s cricket. The game grew in India in every possible way post the famous knock.

 

Indian Fans at the Lords Stadium for the Finals of India vs England during 2017 Women's Cricket World Cup. PC: Getty Images
Indian Fans at the Lords Stadium for the Finals of India vs England during 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup. PC: Getty Images

 

From the BCCI point of view, Women’s cricket wasn’t being prioritised and the seriousness from one of the biggest cricketing boards just wasn’t there. The knock changed it all, BCCI got a little serious about the female side of cricket, games were given television value and the marketing started. The BCCI is still nowhere near its best with women’s cricket and maybe is spoilt waiting for a knock more to get up and running for expansion of women’s cricket.

Education boards, local clubs, colleges, private organizations and many more such bodies started to promote the game for women post the knock. The marketing of women’s cricket in India to popularise and build a fan base had taken baby steps. Today players have got good individual fan bases and the team as a whole is a lot more followed and fan-backed. It was a knock of Harmanpreet Kaur’s willow which definitely played a part in setting things right for women’s cricket in India.

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India Women's Harmanpreet Kaur takes a picture with a fan after victory in the ICC Women's World Cup Semi Final match at The County Ground, Derby. (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)
India Women’s Harmanpreet Kaur takes a picture with a fan after victory in the ICC Women’s World Cup Semi Final match at The County Ground, Derby. (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

 

The missing recognition was gained, the missing expansion started to take baby steps, the missing fan base was achieved and the missing priority was no more an issue. Courtesy ‘that’ Harmanpreet Kaur’s knock in the 2017 World Cup semi-final against a champion side Australia. There was desperation among the ones following women’s cricket in India for something such to happen and thank you for making it happen, Harmanpreet Kaur.

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