Harmanpreet Kaur has just finished another season with the Sydney Thunder in the third edition of the Women's Big Bash League in Australia. The Indian all-rounder probably has not had as many opportunities to shine with the bat this year, but she still played a pivotal role in guaranteeing Thunder a spot in the semis. As she prepares for India Women's first tour after the 2017 World Cup - Harmanpreet tells cricbuzz about her experience in WBBL|03 and how important it is for team India to keep raising their game after a successful World Cup campaign.
You have finished another season in the Women's Big Bash. How would you rate it?
I really enjoyed another year in WBBL - to be fair, it would nice to be here for the rest of the tournament because we, as a team, have been playing really well and it would have been good to play in the finals, but at the same time the national duty is calling so I'm really excited to head to South Africa for the ODI series.
Last year you spoke about how you learnt new fitness regimes and the professionalism in the WBBL. What have you taken onboard this year that you want to bring into the Indian team?
There are some things I have to take onboard again with my batting, bowling or even fielding. Our coach [Jo Broadbent] has been very good. She has asked us to the raise the game to another level. I've been practising and sharpening few new skills and I hope to put that into practice in the future series.
Is there something that you have learnt in the WBBL that you would like to take back into the Indian camp?
What I want to take back into Indian camp from my experience in Australia is the approach we take into games and in specific different situations during a match. Doesn't matter if we're giving away runs or things are not going your way at a particular stage - they still keep thinking about what we have to do next. The thinking is always positive, there will be times when bowlers will go for runs, but it's so important to stay ahead of the game and not dwell on the last ball because that moment is now gone. We still need to learn the situation or game awareness a bit more and I would love to share this experience with my teammates.
You are playing a tournament for the first time after the World Cup, it must be exciting to reunite as a group?
After the World Cup we didn't play any tournament, but I think that was good because before World Cup we were playing continuously for a year. It was, in a way, nice to have that long break to refresh our minds and even our bodies and hopefully that will help us in South Africa. Indian fans have a lot of hopes from us and that is a good thing because we always wanted this attention from the fans back home in India to generate that interest in women's cricket.
Do you think there will be a lot of focus on the team given how successful the team was during the World Cup?
Yes, there will be interest. I've already got a lot of messages on social media and in general, (with) fans asking when can we see team India play again, who are you playing, when are you going into camp. It is good that Indian fans are watching us and looking out for us. It is not only in India, even around the world now we have a lot of fans and we know the fans will be following us, so it is important we play at the same level and raise our standards, so that we continue to attract the interest.
What are your thoughts about the South African team? You have played against some of their players in the WBBL|03...
I came up against three or four South African players and I know how at the Thunder we planned against then, so I will use that information. From my batting point of view, I faced a couple of them - like Dane van Niekerek and Marizane Kaap - so having played them will help me plan better against them. Also, I can share all that information with my team-mates on what to expect, or how they bowl or where they like to hit, so it is exciting time for us. On personal level I will not get uncomfortable against them because I know what to expect.
After the South Africa series, there is another bilateral ODI series against Australia followed by a T20I tri-series. It must be nice to play a lot of games?
Yes, it is a fantastic that our cricket board is staging all these matches now. We wanted more matches and now we are getting them now. Now for us to keep fit and, more importantly, keep performing because I believe the next two or three years are [going to be] so important for women's cricket. We've got the attention of the country now and it is up to us to live up to those high standards.
What are couple of areas India must improve on?
Our prime focus is on the fielding and the fitness department. I believe we are still lacking in these departments, but this exposure from the WBBL and even what we started working towards during the World Cup - we can improve on those aspects in the coming series. Hopefully we can improve our game in those aspects as individuals and as a team. It is fantastic we have a lot of matches and that will only help us test all our skills. Playing all these matches in the next few months will also help us when we play bigger tournaments in the future.