Learning cricket with boys, Harmanpreet towers in women's World Cup
Punjab girl Harmanpreet Kaur on Thursday night virtually led India single-handedly into the final of the Women's World Cup in England with her superlative unbeaten knock of 171, edging out title holders Australia.
When she was growing up and showed interest in sports, her father got her a hockey stick. But she preferred to use the bat instead and play cricket -- that too with boys of her neighborhood as no other girls played cricket.
Hailing from Moga district in Punjab, Harmanpreet's family has been rejoicing for the past 18 hours in their daughter's glory, achieved in Derby.
The mobile phone of her father, Harmandar Singh Bhullar, the house telephone and phones of other family members have not stopped ringing for the past few hours. With friends, relatives and other people streaming into the 'Bhullar Niwas', the home of the cricketer's family, in Moga, it is all abouit celebrations, dancing and sweets.
"I am so proud of my daughter. She has put Moga on the international map. She is better than boys," a proud Harmandar Singh, who is an assistant with a lawyer in Moga town, nearly 180 kilometres from here, told IANS.
Despite the family's limited financial means and the bigger challenge that girls in the area did not opt to play cricket in the first place, did not deter Harmandar Singh in helping his daughter realise her cricketing dream.
Often referred to as the "female version of (Indian's men's cricket team captain) Virat Kohli, Harmanpreet shows a lot of aggression on the field. Some of her temper was clearly visible on the ground on Thursday when her fellow player almost got her run out when she was on 98. The cameras caught Harmanpreet yelling at the other player for the mistake.
Harmanpreet's mother Satinder Kaur said: "She has done proud to the country and to us. People should give their daughters a chance to excel."
Punjab is a state which is notorious for the killing of the girl child in the womb with most people preferring a son. It is among the states with the country's worst gender ratio.
On Friday, a string of celebrities from Bollywood and sports like Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan and Virat Kohli lauded India's win against Australia in the second semi-finals of Women's World Cup, particularly Harmanpreet's heroics.
Her scintillating 115-ball unbeaten 171 helped India thrash Australia by 36 runs and set a date with hosts England in Sunday's final at Lord's in London.
Harmanpreet hammered her third One-day International ton, laced with seven massive sixes and 20 fours to set a daunting 282-run target. In the process, she bailed out the team, which was tottering after losing two wickets in the first 10 overs.
Such was the ferocity of her attack that Harmanpreet got to her third ODI hundred in just 90 balls hammering most of the Australian bowlers out of the park.