Asian Games 2023: women’s gold redemption time for Harmanpreet?
Back after a two-match ICC ban, India’s all-format captain ends her luckless run in finals in country colours
It was a redemption of sorts for Harmanpreet Kaur as she posed with her gold medal after India stopped a spirited Sri Lanka 19 runs short to win the women’s cricket final at the Asian Games in Hangzhou today.
In July, the all-format Indian women’s team captain and prolific scorer slipped into one of the darkest hours of her long career when she was handed a two-match ban by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for smashing the stumps after her dismissal, and later criticising the umpires following India's loss to Bangladesh in an ODI.
The women’s international calendar not being half as crowded as the men's, it meant her missing the first two games at the 2023 Asian Games — the quarter-final against Malaysia and the semi-final against Bangladesh.
However, Harmanpreet handled the captaincy in the final after her deputy Smriti Mandhana led the side in the first two games. The senior pro failed to contribute with the bat on Monday after being dismissed for two as India posted a below-par total of 116 for seven in 20 overs, but the bowlers won the day.
Nita Ambani, owner of the Mumbai Indians franchise, whose women’s team won the inaugural Women’s Premier League under Harmanpreet earlier this year, led the cheering brigade. ‘’Congratulations, Team India. You have made the country proud and inspired generations to come with your historic win. Our women’s team has shown once again that with the right support, belief and collective spirit, our girls are unstoppable,’’ she said in a release.
The last two months have been tough for Harmanpreet, surely the most influential figure in the women’s game in India since the Mithali Raj-Jhulan Goswami era. The cricketing fraternity, right from former greats to the media, tore into her for her admittedly appalling behaviour, as she also displayed her contempt toward Bangladesh captain Nigar Sultana at the presentation ceremony.
At 34, she has been there and done that in her sport, though a team honour in Indian colours eluded her in the past. Her blazing innings of 171 not out in the 50-over World Cup semi-final in 2017 against Australia remains one of the best batting efforts in the women’s game, though Mithali Raj's team eventually lost the final against England on that occasion.
The Indian women then finished runners-up in the T20 World Cup 2020 under her captaincy against Australia while earlier this year, they fell to the same opponents in the semi-finals of World T20. The Asian Games may only be a consolation prize for an achiever like her, but couldn’t have come at a better time!