Harmanpreet Kaur missed out on the limited-overs series and the pink-ball Test against Australia due to a thumb injury. But in the T20I series starting from Thursday, all eyes will be on captain Kaur.

The batter has not been in the best of forms lately, raising concerns about her fitness levels. And former India wicketkeeper-batter Saba Karim expects her to strike form at the earliest. “I am looking at Harman to strike rich form. Being a captain, you do have the responsibility, but one should not forget that they are in the side purely as a batter. The team expects you to contribute with match-winning performances regularly,” Karim said in an interaction organised by Sony Sports.

“We have seen what Smriti (Mandhana) and Shafali (Verma) can do at the top. I’m sure they will put India in a strong position but in the middle overs, and to play right till the end, you need the experience of Harman to come good for India,” Karim, who until recently was the General Manager (Game Development) at the BCCI, said.

Kaur hasn’t played in a while and Karim understands that it will be a challenge for her to regain the momentum. “It will be a challenge but the kind of experience Harman has, I am sure she will adapt to the conditions quite easily. I am sure she is working hard at the practice sessions to get herself match-fit because she remains an essential player for the Indian team. She is the captain of the T20I side and she needs to lead from the front. Over the past, she has struggled at times but these conditions are different and I am sure she will enjoy playing in these conditions,” Karim said.

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“As soon as this series is over, the girls will play in the Women’s Big Bash League, so I think it is a great platform for them, a great time for them to strike good form.”

According to him, the team’s fielding remains a concern. “It is (fielding is a concern), and that is directly related to the fitness level of the players. More they work on fitness I’m sure that change will come and fitness levels of men’s cricket can be replicated, even in the women’s team.

“So, there is a huge amount of work that is taking place in all the state sides, they have professional support staff now we’re working hard to build the physical strength of the players and work on the fitness levels. And as they graduate to the national team.

“We will reach there. It may take some time, but I think the best part is that we are competing in terms of our skill set with all the top teams,” Karim said.

Women’s IPL – the road ahead

With time, Karim believes that the BCCI will look at hosting a women’s IPL but for that to happen, the focus needs to be at the domestic level.

“Going forward, yes, the BCCI will be looking at organising women’s IPL but I also feel that it is more important to have a stronger domestic structure so that it keeps throwing up younger talent who can play at that level,” Karim said.

“Why men’s IPL was a success is because of the kind of structure, the kind of talent that was coming up from the domestic level. And I think a similar kind of thing needs to take place for women’s cricket also.

“So there are two or three areas where I’m sure the BCCI would like to improve in terms of having more number of matches, more tournaments, maybe introducing a multi-day domestic tournament. That will really help the younger talent to come through,” he said.

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With India playing two Tests this year – against England and Australia – there is a call for having multi-day games at the domestic level and Karim feels that it will happen eventually.

“Well, that is the way to take it forward, but it is a big challenge to find the right kind of window. It is equally important to make adequate preparation so that one is able to squeeze in a multi-day tournament for women created in the given window.

“One should not forget that the season in India can’t start before September and you need to finish by March or April. So there are certain constraints, but I’m sure all the state bodies can reorganise,” Karim, who was in charge of women’s cricket during his tenure at the BCCI, said.

Sony Six (English) and Sony Ten 4 (Tamil and Telugu) channels will telecast the first T20I live on October 7, 2021 at 2.10pm. The second and third T20Is will be telecast live on October 9 and 10, 1.40pm onwards.

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