Harmanpreet Kaur left hurting but proud after India’s near miss

As she stood on the podium to receive the silver medal at CWG 2022, Harmanpreet Kaur’s body language told you of the hurt of having missed another golden opportunity to beat Australia in a world final for the second time.Minutes later, as she regathered her thoughts to speak to the media, Harmanpreet was a lot more accepting of the result and the effect it could have on a young generation that wants to play the sport.”I’m happy and satisfied with the way we played throughout,” Harmanpreet said after India fell agonisingly short by nine runs, “I know we were close to winning gold, but all around our performance was great. This is the first time we got to play in this tournament and we’re happy to have won a silver medal.”A medal is something people back home will get inspired from and they could start playing cricket. As a team, we want to inspire young girls. Doing well on this platform will motivate a lot of people back home.”Even as a gold medal slipped from under their nose, India won plenty of admirers with their actions even before a ball was bowled. Tahlia McGrath testing positive for Covid cast a shadow over her participation, even as the CWG rules deemed her fit enough to participate.The toss had to be delayed in the wake of this development, but Harmanpreet later explained the sequence of events that led to her inclusion.”They informed us before the toss,” she said. “That was something not in our control. The CWG had to take a decision and we were okay with it since she [Tahlia McGrath] wasn’t very ill, so we decided to play. We had to show sportsman spirit. I’m happy we didn’t say no to Tahlia, it [missing the final] would’ve even very hard-hitting for her.”Once they took the field, India fought fire with fire, played aggressively, like they had all tournament, With the bat, they shed conservatism to score 150 plus in four of their five matches. With the ball, a young attack, without veterans Jhulan Goswami and Shikha Pandey, repaid the faith.Renuka Singh, in particular, was menacing with her late in swing. Sneh Rana proved to be an able banker, while Deepti Sharma and Meghna Singh impressed in patches.In the grand finale, India’s fielding was top notch with Radha Yadav leading the way with an outstanding catch at point to dismiss McGrath followed by a superb run out at the bowler’s end to dismiss the dangerous Meg Lanning. Then there was a one-handed stunner from Deepti and a catch running back by Meghna, all of which contributed to India restricting Australia to 162.Radha Yadav led an impressive India fielding display•Getty Images”If you want to beat this Australian team, you have to field well,” Harmanpreet said. “If you give them easy runs, they can easily take the game away. We discussed it in the team meeting and Radha set the example for us.”The effort we put up today is something we wanted to do. I know the last 2-3 overs [in the chase] were not in our favour but throughout the game, the way we played was outstanding to watch. We’ve been working on our fielding for a long time. I’m happy with the way we fielded today. That is something we wanted to do as a team.”With the bat, India lost two early wickets, but Harmanpreet and Jemimah Rodrigues added 96 to flicker hopes of an Indian win, before they collapsed to lose 8 for 34. Harmanpreet felt they “lacked one more batter” which they’re working on.”After losing two crucial wickets, the way Jemi and I batted was much needed at that time,” she explained. “You need to hold your nerves. We were nearly there. Maybe if Pooja [Vastrakar] or I were around, we could’ve won the game. But that is part of the game; sometimes some things you can’t control. It is great learning for us.”I am someone who is always looking for one more batter in the side. Unfortunately, we’re working on that. Once we get that, this thing [collapsing] will go away. Every time in big finals, we make the same mistakes again and again [with the bat], that is something we have to improve. We don’t do these mistakes in the league phase or in bilateral. That is blocking our mind somewhere.”Asked to sum up where they are as a team, Harmanpreet felt India were on the right track and echoed Meg Lanning’s thoughts that they weren’t far away from becoming a dominant force teams like Australia would be wary of.”Yes definitely, I know we could’ve easily won gold, but something is better than nothing, at least we got silver,” she said. “We deserved it for so much hard work. If not gold, we’re satisfied with what we got today.”[As a team] we are on the right track, we just need to keep working hard. As Lanning said, we’re not far from dominating across formats. We are improving as a team and time is not far when we will start winning back-to-back.”Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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