'Opportunity a reward for all that hard work away from home'

'Opportunity a reward for all that hard work away from home'

As 20-year-old Mohali cricketer Harleen Kaur Deol wrapped up her practice session at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai Wednesday evening, the all-rounder got news about her selection as a replacement for Punjab cricketer Harmanpreet Kaur Bhullar in the Indian women’s ODI team for the three-match series against England, starting February 22.

Deol, who had been playing for Himachal Pradesh for the last five years, away from her family in Mohali, remembered all those days spent away from home.

“It feels special to get my maiden call-up for the Indian team. I played for Indian A side, which faced the England team earlier this week and was expecting the call. To replace a player like Harmanpreet di in the team means a lot to me as I have always idolised her. I attended the first practice sessions today and even though I had met players like Mithali Raj earlier, I felt little nervous. I have been playing for Himachal Pradesh since the last five years and spending time away from my family in Mohali has been difficult. Today’s selection is the reward for all the days spent away from my family. To play for India is a different feeling and I will aim to give my best against a team like England,” shared Deol, who is a middle-order batswoman apart from being a leg-spinner.

Deol, who is currently a student of MCM DAV College, started playing cricket at the age of 7, and played her first inter-school U-19 cricket match at the age of 8 while playing for Yadavindra Public School, Mohali. Deol also played in IPSC Nationals the same year before playing for Punjab U-19 side in 2010. She initially started as an off-spinner and later became a leg-spinner, claiming 8 and 19 wickets in U-19 Nationals for Punjab in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, Deol joined the HPCA U-19 Academy in Dharamshala and later made it to the Himachal Pradesh team.

Last year, the youngster played for India A against England and the all-rounder also scored 288 runs and claimed 11 wickets for Himachal Pradesh in the BCCI Women’s One Day league last December. In January early this year, Deol emerged as the highest scorer for India Red with 120 runs in the Women’s Challenger Trophy.

“When I started playing cricket under Parveen Singha sir at YPS School, I wanted to play for Punjab and would dream about wearing the Indian jersey. I started with off-spin and later Punjab coach Prakash Chand told me to try leg-spin. Later, I would train under RP Singh sir while playing for the Punjab team. When I was selected for HPCA U-19 Academy, it was a tough decision to take. Our coach Pawan Sen supported us a lot and would spent hours training us. Playing in the Challenger Trophy early this year boosted my confidence and it will also help me,” shared Deol.

At her home in Sector 80, Mohali, her parents BS Deol and Charanjit Kaur Deol and brother Dr Manjot Singh Deol remembered Harleen’s days away from the family. “Harleen would wake up at 5.30 am and go for her training at YPS School, Mohali. In school, she won more than 85 medals in games like cricket, athletics, football and basketball. When she decided to go to Dharamshala for training, her father was little apprehensive about sending her far away. But it was Harleen’s passion which made our faith stronger in her abilities. Today’s selection is the reward for all the days spent without her,” shared Harleen’s mother.