Harmanpreet Kaur knows all about responsibility and the demands of leading the nation. The talented batswoman from Moga in Punjab will captain the Indian women's team at the World T20 next week and knows all too well about the expectations to galvanise the women's game in a cricket-mad nation.
Last year, it was Kaur's dynamic innings in the ODI World Cup against Australia that created a storm in India. Now, at World T20, she needs to ensure that she continues her sparkling form with the willow and gets the best out of her teammates. It is a tough challenge and Kaur's will be tested both physically and mentally.
From all reports, Kaur has already formed a strong bond with new coach Ramesh Powar. The coach and the captain have only been together for eight matches, but have a squad that has a nice blend of youth and experience. The pair has already stated that they want the team to be fearless at the ICC event. But for that to happen, Kaur will need to elevate her game and hope her power game rubs off on some of her younger teammates.
Kaur is likely to bat at No 4 and will need to control the innings from the minute she walks out to the middle. She is the cleanest and the longest hitter of the cricket ball in the squad. In a T20 era, where power hitting has become so prominent, Kaur will arguably be the most important player for India if they are to go deep into the tournament.
Having played in the T20 competitions such as the Women's Big Bash League in Australia and the Super League in England, Kaur is at her prime and is experienced to confront and conquer different game scenarios. Last year in an interview with Cricbuzz, Kaur stated that for India to be superior to the rest of the world, they needed to improve their game awareness and be capable of handling the pressure.
Having played 88 T20 matches, Kaur needs to utilise all that experience and be the backbone of the Indian batting. It is fair to say that apart from Kaur and Veda Krishnamurthy, India lack a genuine power-hitter who can score boundaries at ease, so the way Kaur constructs her innings throughout the tournament will play a pivotal role in India's success. The positive side is that having participated in international leagues, Kaur has the know-how of playing against quality opposition and will be familiar to the bowlers.
The conditions in the Windies will suit her style of play. The pitches in Guyana tend to be on the slow and lower side, which should prompt for plenty of slow bowling. Kaur is exceptional against the spin bowlers, her ability to step down pitch and muscle the ball on either side of the pitch allows her to play the role of an aggressor during the middle or latter stages of an innings.
Good news for India is that Kaur has been in scintillating form and is at primed fitness. Last year, she had struggled with a wrist injury and it had prevented her from the wielding the willow as she would have liked. However, in the last few months, she has rediscovered her majestic touch and the runs have started to flow. In her last 17 innings, Kaur has averaged 40, her strike-rate is an impressive 116.8 and she has bludgeoned 58 boundaries
Even in the recent series against Australia A, Kaur was monumental scoring 41, 57 and 45. The challenge for Kaur is to replicate her recent good form against the likes of Australia and New Zealand.
Kaur made a mockery out of the Australian bowlers the last time they met at an ICC event but found it difficult to maintain those lofty standards during the tri-series in Mumbai earlier this year. She was India's leading run-scorer at the Asia Cup in June and was also among the runs in the recently concluded five-match series against Sri Lanka.
At 29, Kaur is at the peak of her powers. She knows her game inside out and understands the burden of expectations. It was Kaur who reignited the passion for women's cricket in India with that outstanding knock of 171 not out in the semi-final against Australia at the 50-over world cup and it will be Kaur who will be expected to deliver the goods at World T20.
Even the women's game has transpired into a power game and there is no better stroke-maker in India than Kaur. This World T20 presents Kaur an ideal opportunity to stamp her authority as a leader and one of the premier batswomen in world cricket. Importantly, it is once again a chance for her to lead Indian women's cricket in the right direction.