Being a wife, a mother or a professional cricketer, these things in themselves are full-time jobs. And then there are superwomen who do all these three things at the same time and succeed at them all. Punjab and Northern Railways cricketer Harpreet Sran is one such woman and her story proves “age is just a number”.
At what age did you start playing cricket?
When I started out, we didn’t really know much about women’s cricket, we used to play street cricket in our village but that was it. Professionally, I started playing in the first year of college. I was around 18 years old back then. We used to play inter-college and inter-university games. I first went for this tournament in Delhi, at this time women’s cricket was managed by WCAI and not BCCI. I think it was the Rani Jhansi tournament, it was equivalent to the Inter-Zonal games that take place now. There a ma’am picked me. We were raw, unaware of any future that women’s cricket holds. That tournament was not that great for me but it did change the way I looked at women’s cricket. We got the exposure and got more aware about the opportunities in the game.
Which academy did you join to take your cricket forward?
I didn’t join any other academy as such apart from my college, but yes in Chandigarh there was an academy for girls – Guru Nanak Public School had an academy and the training was conducted under Jaswant sir and RP sir. When I started my practice, they were my college coaches too. It wasn’t a proper academy back then but now it is.
When I started out, we didn’t really know much about women’s cricket, we used to play street cricket in our village but that was it.
Were you always a sportsperson? What drew you to choosing cricket over other sports?
I have only played cricket since the beginning. In college, they used to tell us to try other sports as well but I wasn’t really interested, I focused on cricket only. When I was young, like I said, we weren’t really aware. But boys used to play in the village and I enjoyed playing cricket along with them and watching too. Getting drawn towards cricket was something very organic.
How did you first get into the Punjab state team?
Whenever we heard there were selections going on somewhere, we used to go. First, I got into the Chandigarh district team. At that time Chandigarh and Punjab didn’t have different teams so it came under the Punjab state team itself. Performing well for the state team got me into the probable list for the state team. Eventually, I became a regular member. A lot of Team India players have played for our state team like Renu Margrate, they have a lot of experience. We have flourished under players like her.
How do you create a balance between being a mom and a professional cricketer?
It is extremely difficult initially. When I had my first baby in 2015, I even thought for a while if I will ever be able to make a comeback or not. I had my daughter in August and our season starts in November. I had two-three months only so I didn’t play the first tournament. You need at least six months for recovery right? After I felt I could play, I played this one tournament which made me realize I was lacking somewhere. I immediately started preparing for the next season. I joined a gym and focused on my fitness.
I told myself “if you want to play at that level again, you have to be up to the mark”. So yes it’s difficult to manage, but my in-laws are very supportive. In fact, they always push me to play. Age is just a number, even I have realized this now. Even after giving birth to my second daughter I am playing. I had to work double hard after my second child to get back into the game. Now fitness is like my routine, I don’t think I can ever leave it.
As the kids grow up, the responsibilities increase too. Do you think that would put more pressure on you?
Right now I don’t have the pressure of their schooling on myself, but yes as they grow up and get into schools, then it might increase. We will see when that time comes. Till the time I have that passion, I will continue. When your in-laws are so supportive it becomes easy. I leave the kids with their grandparents and they are so gelled-up and even I don’t have that pressure in the back of my head. I know they are safe and well taken care of.
Who were your cricketing idols/role models growing up?
Being a fast-bowler I used to follow Glenn McGrath a lot. I used to see his accuracy with the bowling and of course tried copying his action as well (laughs). I used to try the bowling actions of Brett Lee and Andrew Flintoff, I really liked them too. In the Indian Women’s team, I really idolize the all-rounder Amita Sharma. I am with her in Northern Railways so I get to learn a lot from her. Rumeli Dhar and Jhulan Goswami are my favorites too.
When I had my first baby in 2015, I even thought for a while if I will ever be able to make a comeback or not.
How has Punjab Cricket Association contributed to your career?
It has been a good journey with them. I have attended 3 national camps – NCA, ZCA, have played for Board President’s XI, played the Challengers Trophy, have represented the North Zone a couple of times. They have been supportive, unbiased, overall everything is good.
How has your experience playing for Northern Railways been?
It has been a great experience! I joined them in 2009. There are Inter-Railway games conducted every year and from there the team gets selected for Indian Railways. I never got into that team but all-in-all it has been fruitful. A lot of stars have emerged from the Northern Railways. From Jaya Sharma to Amita Sharma, Rumeli Dhar, Asha Sharma, everyone. A lot of Indian players were part so we got to learn a lot, from the very beginning.
From when you initially started playing cricket to now, there have been a lot of changes in the facilities provided to female cricketers. Your take on that?
There has been a tremendous change! The best improvement has been that the matches are being broadcasted now. When people watch these games, only then will they understand that there are opportunities in women’s cricket. There is so much professionalism now. A couple of years back there were no physiotherapists and trainers with the team. Now people especially train to join the team as support staff. So many people watched the 2017 world cup final! After that tournament, there has been a drastic change in women’s cricket and so many people’s perspectives towards the game have changed. Now people have realized that women players and no less than their male counterparts.
Have you ever thought about training your daughters as professional cricketers?
(Laughs) I haven’t really decided on that yet but yes, definitely considering doing that. If at least one of my two daughters become a cricketer, they might fulfill my dreams.
Apart from cricket, what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy listening to music, apart from that I don’t have any hobby as such. Now I don’t even get the time to listen to music (laughs).
People have realized that women players and no less than their male counterparts.
Your best cricketing moment so far?
When we won the Inter-railways, definitely one of those moments. Personally, I don’t remember the exact statistics but the games I won for North Zone. My first bowl against England’s Board President’s XI, had held the Kookaburra ball in my hand for the first time. That was a very good feeling.
What role has your family played in your journey?
My dad was an ex-football player so he never stopped me from playing cricket. As such, I had no hindrances from my family’s side and everyone was very supportive. I myself in fact realized very late about the opportunities in women’s cricket. Everything happened by chance. My parents, in-laws and husband, everyone has been super supportive towards me. I never once felt that I will have to leave cricket. Even now as I am getting older, I don’t have more than 3-4 years of game left, even now my in-laws say after you stop playing stay connected to cricket in some way.
How do you think women’s cricket can be further promoted in India?
The number of domestic tournaments should increase. Girls get very few opportunities to play matches than the boys. They have tournaments like Syed Mushtaq, Ranji Trophy, so in my opinion, such tournaments should be arranged for women’s cricket as well so that they get more chances and the time to reflect back on their performances, only then they can improve.
This piece was fisrt published on Female Cricket.