From Sachin Tendulkar to Mithali Raj, India leads the way in batting. But there exists a kind of batters, which are not only rare in Indian cricket but have always delivered for the team when needed or laid the foundation to a big score. Yes, they are attacking openers. And India, as I said, has been fortunate with them. Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Virender Sehwag and Smriti Mandhana, lately. Sachin Tendulkar, Ganguly, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan have all been attacking batsmen, but none could do that from the very first ball. A find of that kind has been Indian women cricket team’s new opener, Harleen Deol.
21 years old
Date of Birth
21st June 1998
5ft. 3" (162 cm)
Right-arm leg spinner
Teams Played for
Harleen is basically from Punjab but started playing for Himachal Pradesh because of her father’s transfer. On asking the commencement of her cricketing journey, she says her involvement in sports from an early age. “I used to play with the boys in Punjab. Because of my brother, I started playing cricket. Not only Cricket, I used to play Football, Hockey and Basketball too. But, later on, I decided to continue cricket only. So, that’s how I got into this game.” said Harleen.
Playing cricket started at a young age of 7-8 years for Harleen Deol. Like most others, it was quite a gradual progress for her, from gully cricket and school-level to district and so on. Asking about her introduction to cricket, she said, “In my initial days, I used to play gully cricket with the boys in Punjab. From there, I was selected in the school team and gave trials for Chandigarh team.” While speaking about her journey she further added, “I met coach RP Singh, who offered me to come to Punjab and selected me for the state team when I was just 11/12”.
But the significant change in her childhood happened when she visited Dharamsala on her father’s transfer to Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. As a reason for that shift, she says, “Girls were practising, and they were getting the facilities which international players get. When I saw the facilities and the opportunities, I got impressed. My father asked me whether I want to shift my base.”
It was not tough to decide for young Harleen, who loved cricket more than anything. She decided to change her base to Himachal. The best thing that happened to her was her parents’ support for her playing the game. Talking on that, she said,” My family has supported me throughout. My parents are not like others’ parents who don’t support their children’s dream.” After her brother’s departure, when she was the only girl left to play with boys, many aunties scoffed at the idea, but her mother was always there for her. Harleen Deol had a clear goal and had ideal parents to support that.
Harleen’ career kicked off when she represented Punjab at the age of 11, under coach RP Singh. It was when she did an important change in her bowling. “I was an off-spinner, initially. It was a North Zone tournament and we had our nationals after 10-15 days. But we did not have a leg spinner.” says Harleen. “I was practising the leg-spin as a variation and doing so with good control. That is when our coach Prakash sir asked me to do more leg-spin. Then I became a leggie.”, further added, Harleen Deol.
Harleen has evolved as a complete allrounder, for India and India A. This was not by chance; she had the innate ability to do both adequately. But opportunities to showcase her talent were less, as she did not get to bat much.
When asked on that, she says, “I batted down the order for Punjab so could not prove much. In a match against Hyderabad when the team was at 22/4, I pulled it till 100 and got a chance to open. The next match, she scored a 49, and that was the moment when she became an opener.
Representing India is a matter of pride for any athlete. It is a different feeling when you go out there, wearing the blue jersey and tricolour. She recalls, “when I was walking on the ground, wearing the jersey I just can’t describe that feeling. When you are practising the whole day, repeating the same thing every day and when you get the results, it feels great.”
Harleen has till date played just 5 T20s and a single ODI for India. But a string of performances for India A and the Women’s T20 challenge has only affirmed her status of a promising player.
On her selection for India A, Harleen’s mother was as happy as her. On that note, she says, “It was a great feeling, especially for my mom. She was crying all day. When I asked why are you crying, she was like I am so happy that I can’t tell you.”
Harleen Deol made her debut bearing the pressure of carrying Mithali Raj’s jersey number on her back. Although initial foray into international cricket does not paint such an image, she has that talent and promises to carry that burden. She just needs performances to back that.
She debuted for India when England came for a visit in February, due to an injury to Harmanpreet Kaur. A string of low-key performances in the series did not affect much as she was selected for the Trailblazers squad in the Challenger tournament in May. Playing for them, Harleen smashed consecutive 30+ scores, with equal maturity.
Harleen lives an athlete’s life. It starts at 5.30 in the morning followed by a 3-hour practice session in the morning. Questioning how she managed this during school, she admits the difficulty. “I had to go at 9, and I used to come at 3 pm from school, at 4 pm I had to reach the ground. Then till 7.30 or 8, we used to have sessions.” She further adds, “Coming from school and going to the ground was the better option than going to school. That was difficult”, with a smile.
Harleen is a jovial person off the field. Still doing her graduation, but someone who already played for India, she is extremely humble. Her favourite food dishes are her mom-made “Ghar ka khana”. She loves to watch films in her pastime, mentioning Ranveer Singh as her favourite.
Being an Indian player of this generation, she admires Virat Kohli the most and also Australian legend, Shane Warne. No doubt, the best in both of her departments. Apart from cricket, she enjoys football and loves both Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.