"Women can also be
game changers"

Interview with PUMA Athlete and Indian Cricket Captain Harmanpreet Kaur

June 30, 2023

Interview with PUMA Athlete and Indian Cricket Captain Harmanpreet Kaur

June 30, 2023

Meet Harmanpreet Kaur – an athlete who never let lack of opportunities stop her from chasing her dream. Having started playing cricket at a young age, and now the captain of the Indian women’s national team, Harmanpreet played with men because there was no girls team. Noticing her talent, her school principle approached her to start up a cricket academy for girls. Raising awareness that cricket is also a girls game, Harmanpreet brought a team of girls together to advocate for female cricket. Now, she is still a role model for change.

CATch Up had the opportunity to chat with Harmanpreet on the opportunities for women in cricket, her personal experiences and her work with PUMA to promote sport for women in India. Check out the interview below!

How did you get into playing cricket?

Harmanpreet: Actually because of my dad! My dad used to play a couple of sports and cricket was one of them. He is my biggest inspiration: because of him, I was able to take on the sport. Back home at that time, there was no women’s cricket. I was only playing with boys and with my dad. But one day, my school principal came to me and said that he had been watching me play for almost six months, and he asked me why I wanted to play cricket. Back then, there were seven or eight other sports happening – but I was only ever playing cricket with my friends. And he said to me, look around, there are so many other sports where you can easily go and play. Why struggle and play cricket which is not very famous? Hockey was the biggest sport, not cricket. I just told him clearly that I wanted to play cricket, that cricket is my dream and I want to become a cricketer. That’s when he told me that he would open a cricket academy for me.

That was a turning point in my life. I started going to the cricket academy and I went to every classroom and asked all the girls if they can come and support me because I want to play cricket and in order to do so, I need a team. I needed other girls. I could only take the game ahead once I had a team.

Did you think it was really possible for women to play cricket before the principal approached you?

Harmanpreet: If my principal did not approach me to open the cricket academy for women, I don’t think I would have been able to pursue the game as a professional. There was no option for me. I did not see any single girl play cricket – or any other sports for that matter. I come from a very small town where only boys and men were playing all the sports, but not girls.

I was already in 11th grade when we opened the academy – I was going to university a year later. At that time, I had to decide whether I wanted to only study or do sport. I was good in all sports, but cricket was something which was very close to my heart. I always wanted to do really well in cricket because it is so famous in India. It is always on TV.

For me, my family were so supportive and never stopped me from playing. They were okay with me playing with boys. But people used to come to my parents and were saying, she’s playing with boys? That is not the right thing. Why are you allowing her to play with boys? She should play a sport that belongs to women. But my family still supported me and were very clear that they were not going to stop me from playing. So once I got the opportunity to play at the academy, they were the ones taking me there. They were the ones waiting for me to make things change one day, where people will not stop their children from playing any sport.

Were you aware there was a professional Indian women’s cricket team? Could you envision ever playing professionally?

Harmanpreet: Actually, no. When I met my school principal and when he asked me if I wanted to play cricket, my first question was “do girls play cricket?”. Because I had never seen any girl playing cricket and I never watched a single match on TV. He said to me that he watched the women’s team, that they also represent India and if I was good enough, I could also be a part of that team. And from that day forward my dream was to reach there. My dream was to play with them and to do something big for my country. I think when I met him, the first 30/40 minutes was a conversation on the things I used to dream about. It was a clear picture of my goal, and that I could actually reach it. That was a totally game changing moment for me.

In the campaign, it states “cricket is everyone’s game”. How has your perception of this changed over time? Do you think this is true now?

Harmanpreet: I think we are still working on that. In the campaign that launched me as an associate of PUMA, it really shows this. When they asked the public to guess who the next brand ambassador will be, 80% of the people thought the next ambassador will be male. Only 20% of the people thought about a female athlete. But I think things are changing now – and PUMA is putting in a lot of effort to make those changes. I think we have to keep doing these campaigns. We must keep bringing this awareness back home in India and even globally, where people can support women in sport. I think things are changing and we are still on that stage where we have to advocate for all of these changes.

What do you think still needs to be done in terms of empowering women in cricket and increasing visibility?

Harmanpreet: I was always dreaming and thinking about how we can bring more girls to the sport. PUMA has played a very big role and been so supportive with this: the campaign where we are bringing that awareness, where people can also think about how women can also be game changers and the champions. I really hope this campaign will help bring that change – not only for cricket, but other sports too.

How does being a role model motivate you to do more for women?

Harmanpreet: As a captain, it’s my responsibility. I can be a game changer, I can take that responsibility and make those small changes where we can be confident on the field, we can get that awareness. I always felt one of the biggest things is also fitness. If you are more athletic, if you are more ready mentally and physically, you can always bring those changes. And when I joined the team, we depended more on our skill. Now the fitness is something which we have been working really hard on, we are focussing on raising awareness in India to bring more people into sport through Let There Be Sport campaign launched recently. We really believe that sport is necessary for everyone: everyone can play any sport. Sport can change your life. Sport can make us physically and mentally strong. Whenever there is any opportunity where I can bring that change, I am always there and I always want to take women’s cricket to the next level, where one day our country will be recognised through women’s cricket. That is my aim. And the PUMA family is helping me to take that initiative.

How do you use your role as the captain of the Indian cricket team to advocate change?

Harmanpreet: As a captain, I want to create a strong team who is aways together and helping each other. I want to create a team that can cause a lot of changes. All of my teammates are really helpful: they are always ready to listen and do whatever is necessary for the team. I think when you have teammates like that, your role as a captain is very easy. I am very grateful that I have such a beautiful team. For me, creating a strong team is very important and I am always working towards that.

How do you feel PUMA helps drive this change for women?

Harmanpreet: The Let There Be Sport campaign is definitely going to play a big role. And even in the future, I am sure PUMA will always be there to create an opportunity where we can get this awareness, promote all sports, and encourage all women and girls to play any sport. I am sure these small steps can create big things. I think we are going in the right direction and we just need to keep doing the right work. This campaign alone is going to motivate a lot of people to start playing cricket.

Have you already noticed that females are more motivated to play cricket?

Harmanpreet: Yes! With the campaign launch talking about how cricket is everyone’s game, we got such a beautiful response. We got so many supportive messages. We haven’t always viewed cricket as being everyone’s game, but now it is so nice to see people using hashtags promoting that cricket actually is everyone’s game. It is such a simple line, but it says so many things.

What are your wishes for cricket in the future?

Harmanpreet: If I talk about our team, we have been doing such hard work for so many years and so for our country, we want to win a big title. Winning a big title for your country always brings pride. And our team is doing so well! We are reaching the finals or semi-finals in all the tournaments. Whenever we are able to achieve that title, I think that can also bring a lot of changes back home in India. This year, we have the ODI World Cup happening for men and next year we have it for women. I think those tournaments play a big role in bringing along these changes.

You have come so far in your career. What are your next ambitions?

Harmanpreet: I want to achieve the big title for my country. We have already been working towards this and as a team, we have to stick together, we have to do things together. And definitely in the upcoming two-three years, we have so many exciting tournaments and we will give 100% to achieve that goal.



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