Harmanpreet’s checklist for UK tour

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When Harmanpreet Kaur made her ODI debut in 2009, Jhulan Goswami was India’s captain. Now 13 years later when Goswami is slated to play her last series, Harmanpreet is at the helm of affairs and is looking forward to give the veteran fast bowler a fitting, memorable farewell.

“Having her in the side always gives you a lot of support and balance,” Harmanpreet said ahead of India’s departure to the UK. “When I debuted, she was the captain and it is a great opportunity for me to lead the last ODI she plays. We will be trying to create some great moments for her so that she can take back good memories from it. We are trying to make the occasion feel special and it is an opportunity for all of us to play with her.”

Goswami, 39, is set to retire from international cricket after the third ODI at Lord’s. She last played in the Women’s World Cup earlier in the year and missed out of India’s last match against South Africa due to a side strain. She had then missed the tour to Sri Lanka before being named in the ODI squad for the three-match series against England.

“Her approach to the team and [wanting to] do well in every game is something nobody can beat,” Harmanpreet said. “When I entered the team, she was leading from the front and I have learnt from her. Nobody can fill her place. She used to work hard in her early days and today also, I have not seen her change in the way she trains during practice sessions.

“She bowls two-three hours, which hardly a few do. Nobody can bring the passion that she does. As a cricketer and as a person I have learnt a lot from her. She is a great example for all of us. There are many who have started playing looking at her.

“Even I looked at how she prepares before games and how her mindset before a match is and learnt from her. I am lucky to have seen her, worked closely and spent time with her. I was lucky to have such a senior from whom I could learn a lot.”

Harmanpreet also advocated for having six batters in the XI and highlighted their strong finishing skills for the maiden call-up of Kiran Prabhu Navgire and the return of Dayalan Hemalatha.

“I feel, no matter whatever format you are playing, you need to have six batters in the side,” she said. “Having two-three pure bowlers and two-three allrounders can give you a great balance to the side. We have a couple of new players to fill those areas we lacked in, like in the slog overs, when you need 10 runs or more per over.”

While Navgire scored her 525 runs – including a record 162 not out – in the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy as a guest player for Nagaland as an opener, she hit the fastest fifty in the Women’s T20 Challenge in May batting at No. 3. Hemalatha, on the other hand, made an impression for Railways batting in the lower-middle order, finishing with 272 runs. It is likely the duo are contenders for the finisher’s spot that India look to shore up in white-ball cricket.

“I was impressed in the way KP [Navgire] batted in the Women’s T20 Challenge and [we will see] if we can work on those players who have the skills,” Harmanpreet said. “It is an area which has caused a problem for us. They have the power and skill and will travel with the team. If we can work on them and add skills to their personal game, it will help the team fill the area we are lacking in. I have personally seen them bat in the domestic season and it is the right platform for them to bring their skills where the team was lacking.”

Post the World Cup, India have also shuffled their wicketkeepers, with Taniya Bhatia being part of both the white-ball formats. Yastika Bhatia pipped Richa Ghosh to the Commonwealth Games squad as the second wicketkeeper but Ghosh returns to the T20I squad for the tour of England while Yastike is part of only the ODI squad with Taniya finding herself in both the setups.

“If we talk about both the formats, the role of keepers are different,” Harmanpreet said. “In ODIs you need someone who can bat longer and in T20Is you need someone who can start quickly. That’s why we are trying two different keepers in both formats. We are giving opportunities to them and we need to give them time so that they can get some confidence.”

Harmanpreet also pointed towards fielding and increased fitness as one of the factors towards India’s good show during the Commonwealth Games earlier this month. India won the silver medals in the inaugural women’s T20 cricket competition in Birmingham after narrowly losing to Australia in the final.

“We are definitely working towards fitness and fielding, because I feel if we improve in these two areas we can do wonders,” she said. “In the Commonwealth Games, we did well but still there is scope for improvement.

“We had a small camp at the NCA where a few girls worked on their fielding and skills. Now we are going to England and if we can show great efforts on the field there, it will give us confidence.

“When you play big tournaments like World Cup, Commonwealth Games, etc., these parts play a major role. Skill always remains with you but if you work on fielding and fitness, it helps the team.”

India will begin their England tour with three T20Is followed by three ODIs, which are part of the ICC Women’s Championship.

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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