Women’s World Cup 2022 – India’s Harmanpreet Kaur credits team psychologist to bring her out of her ‘shell’

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“After that I got clear ideas, those things really helped me in the last two-three games,” says India’s vice-captain, who struck a century in the warm-ups

India vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur has admitted she was “going into my shell” when she was struggling with form, and that speaking to Dr Mugdha Bavare, the mental-health conditioning coach who is traveling with the team, helped her get “clear ideas” ahead of the World Cup. Harmanpreet echoed her captain Mithali Raj’s words, stressing on the importance of having a mental-health professional around, especially before big tournaments.
The senior batter had been enduring a rough patch in ODIs in the last few years, making 444 runs in 21 matches since 2019, averaging 31.71 with just two fifties. During the recent series against hosts New Zealand leading up to the World Cup, she made scores of 10, 10 and 13 before scoring a 66-ball 63 in India’s only win in the series in the fifth ODI. She followed it up with a 104 off 114 in the warm-up match against South Africa and did not take part in the next warm-up against West Indies with sore wrists.

“Mugdha ma’am is traveling with us, she has been helping us a lot,” Harmanpreet said during a press conference on Wednesday. “Especially during the last four games which we played against New Zealand when even my performance wasn’t going too well and I was going into my shell. The World Cup was coming up and it is very important, as we all know. After that, she spoke to me and as the talks were happening I realised that I was also looking forward to talking to her. I got the solutions from the talks we had.

“There wasn’t a lot of awareness about it before and there was a lot of pressure to put up performances, things were happening around. After that I got clear ideas, those things really helped me in the last two-three games. I think the rest of the players are also getting help because I can see she’s continuously talking to all the players, which is important and that will really help us.”

Harmanpreet has been copping criticism for not making a mark with big scores since her scintillating 171* against Australia in the semi-final of the 2017 World Cup, most recently from former India captain Diana Edulji who had said that Harmanpreet can’t survive in the Indian team just on that knock. Since that iconic innings, she has averaged just 28.75 with the bat. While she is well aware of the criticism coming her way, Harmanpreet feels it’s because she has set the standard of being a big-knock player and that her smaller match-winning efforts aren’t being highlighted as a result.

“I know people talk more about my 171 knock,” she said. “I think I set myself a standard with that knock, I know I can play that kind of cricket. Maybe that’s why my smaller crucial knocks of 30, 40, 50 – for whichever team [I play] are not getting enough importance. I don’t think I judge myself with numbers. For me, what is important is, irrespective of how much ever I score it should be enough for my team, irrespective of whether it is 100 runs or 10 runs. Numbers don’t matter to me, what matters is whenever the team needs me I should be there.”

She also expressed her disappointment in not being able to find form in the last few years, calling it “painful” to not being able to make runs despite trying her best.

“What’s painful is when I don’t make runs. As a cricketer, you are always looking for runs. Nothing is more painful than getting on the field and you’re trying to give your 200% and unfortunately you’re not able to deliver at that level, as you are expecting from yourself, forget about people who have hopes on me. I think more painful is not getting runs more than other things.

“It’s not about a big player or small player feeling – it’s the same for every player. I think when these things happened, Mugdha played a very big role when I was not getting runs. She came to me, she spoke to me about what’s happening and how I can find a way out and my family was supporting me, they were continuously talking to me. Those things helped me a lot.”

Sruthi Ravindranath is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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