During a press conference on Friday, it was hard to keep count of the number of times Harmanpreet Kaur mentioned her desire to win a World Cup. She was speaking on the eve of India’s second T20I against England at the Wankhede Stadium, which they must win to stay alive in a three-match series, but the focus already seems to be on claiming the big prize at the T20 World Cup in September-October next year.
“Personal achievements are not that important for me,” Harmanpreet said. “Winning a World Cup for the country is the aim. I just want us to grow together and do something great.”
An ICC title has eluded the Indian women’s team so far. India have finished runners-up in the ODI World Cup twice, in 2005 and 2017, and made the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup five times, losing in the final in 2020. Having made her international debut in 2009, the 34-year-old has faced her fair share of heartbreaks at ICC events.
Nevertheless, this is a crucial phase for Harmanpreet and Co. After the two remaining T20Is against England, they will host reigning champions Australia for a three-match series in the shortest format. There is a new head coach in Amol Muzumdar, along with a number of new players in the squad.
“This team that we’ve picked for the ongoing series, we want to build it for the upcoming T20 World Cup,” said Harmanpreet. “I want this team to grow in a way that everyone says this is the best team in the world. For me, winning a World Cup is a dream. I’m working towards it and that’s the only reason why I requested the BCCI and all the selectors for a young team, so that we can grow them. I know these games are very important.”
India’s squad for the ongoing series against England is stacked with many fresh faces. Saika Ishaque and Shreyanka Patil featured in a T20I for the first time in the opener while Titas Sadhu, Minnu Mani, Kanika Ahuja and Amanjot Kaur have played fewer than 10 T20Is each. Left-arm spinner Mannat Kashyap is yet to make her debut.
Reflecting on her approach towards inexperienced players, Harmanpreet said that their mentality goes a long way towards determining how long a rope they get.
“Every time you share the field with a new player, you get a fair idea about them by noticing their body language and thought process,” said the captain. “At the same time, there’s no surety for anyone in regular life and it’s the same for a sportsperson. It’s about how a player improves day by day and helps the team to win. That’s the most important. Based on that, you decide how many opportunities you want to give that player. If you see our current squad, there are several young faces who have been picked based on their performances in the WPL (Women’s Premier League) and domestic cricket. These are the players who have done the best in the T20 format.”
Harmanpreet added: “ Even the support staff is looking very balanced. Amol sir is there… he has a lot of experience, played very good cricket and done good things as a coach as well. If I talk about things apart from cricket, everything is looking quite good. As a player and as a captain, it’s very important to have that balance. You can perform better when you know everything is sorted and you just have to go out there and focus on the game. As the captain, I have immense faith in my players. I know they’re the best, that’s why they’re here. I want to give them as many opportunities as possible and hope they do well for the country.”