Meet the Harmonster
Take a look at this image below. It is the most bad ass image you will ever see in sports. Not just women’s cricket, but any and all sports ever. Harmanpreet Kaur has just scored a century. It is one of the biggest milestones for a batsman in cricket. But, Harmanpreet Kaur does not care. She is not celebrating. Instead, she is angry and frustrated. She is upset that her batting partner did not listen to her. She is furious that Deepti Sharma did not go for the second run that was there for the taking. Her helmet is bouncing on the ground as she screams in rage. This is a moment of passion. It is the headrush of pumping adrenaline that sports players get when they give 200%.
At first, I was afraid to check out social media. Aggression is not always appreciated in sports. At least not in cricket. Definitely, not from women. In the run up to the Women’s World Cup, I had read a lot of sexist comments about women trying to be equal to men.
I was pleasantly surprised. Most of the comments were overwhelmingly positive. After all, this was a moment of pure unadulterated passion. Harmanpreet is not even cognizant that she’s made a century. She is not even celebrating it. She is just hungry. Hungry for a lot of runs. Not just for herself, but for her team that is playing a pivotal game. There is nothing Indians love more than glory for India. Harmanpreet is delivering just that – glory for India. Her rage and transgression are overlooked and forgiven. They applaud her passion, dedication, and determination.
Harmanpreet is made completely of bad ass attitude and that is great for India. After her century, she goes on to make 71 more runs at explosive pace. Her unbeaten 171 steamrolls Australia. Even though they put up a fight, it was just not enough. Words are not enough to describe Harmanpreet’s innings. Jarrod Kimber does a pretty good job in his article here.
Some choice extracts
But Harmanpreet was going against muscle memory, neural plasticity and her cricket senses. So, of course, she dropped to her knee and planted Kristen Beams over midwicket for a four.
Harmanpreet needs a break. She has literally battered Australia so much all the electrolytes in her body are at deep midwicket. The human body was not meant to be this awesome. Harmanpreet is like the Millennium Falcon, travelling faster than she was designed to travel. The only breaks she gives Australia are when she’s on the ground being looked after.
At this point Australia give up trying to stop her. Elyse Villani comes on to bowl slow-medium-dibble-dobbly-change-up part-timers. It’s like trying to kill Godzilla by putting a puppy at her feet.
Giant Leap for Women’s Cricket
Harmanpreet’s unbeaten 171 has not just set up India on a date with history in the finals against England at the hallowed grounds of Lords. It has rewritten history for women’s cricket. It has blazed its way through the jungles of misogyny, apathy, and politics to finally bring women’s cricket out into the sunlight.
Now everyone is talking about Harmanpreet and that awesome innings. A strike rate of 149, who new women’s cricket could be so entertaining. All the boys awestruck by the likes of Sehwag, Dhoni, and Kohli have added a woman to their pantheon of Gods. Commentators and cricket players are ranking it amidst the best innings in ODI cricket, period. Social media cannot stop gushing about it. Mithali Raj must be pleased. Instead of asking female cricketer’s to comment on their favorite male players, the men are being asked to comment on Harmanpreet’s innings.
Tomorrow’s final will be a historic event. Lords is sold out. An unprecedented event for women’s cricket. Viewership has increased by 300% in many regions. India will come to a standstill just as it does when the men’s team play the finals. Indians around the world will be tuned in. I must confess, despite considering cricket as my religion, I have confined my devotion to men’s cricket. It is a glorious feeling to unshackle the bondage and be unabashedly gaga about women’s cricket.
Harmanpreet has rewritten history, but she has not done it alone. It has been a journey in the making over several years. Captain Mithali Raj and her deputy Jhulan Goswami have toiled in oblivion to become the record holders for most runs and most wickets in women’s cricket respectively. To be honest, Mithali Raj deserves a lot more attention and credit than she gets. We hail Dhoni as captain cool, but in truth it is Mithali Raj. She is chill like a boss, cooly reading a book before she’s up to bat. We also owe kudos to Harmanpreet’s family who supported her despite being in one some female-hostile parts of India.
Also, spare a thought for Cricket Australia. As much as we hate their men’s team and their cocky attitude, women’s cricket owes a lot to Australia. They were the first country to invest in the women’s T20 league with the women’s big bash. They were the first country to say, hey let’s treat women’s cricket just like the men’s game. Meg Lanning is a bigger celebrity in Australia than Mithali Raj is in India. Australia also nurtured female cricket journalists and commentators like Melinda Farell. Thanks to the success of Womens Big Bash League that ICC and ESPN are finally broadcasting more women’s matches.
Countless women athletes and commentators have strived for years to make women’s cricket mainstream. Cricket Australia provided a platform for those efforts. Harmanpreet Kaur launched from that platform and took a quantum leap for women’s cricket into the future. The world of cricket changed on Thursday. Finally, passion gets its due.