Pitch Please: “It’s not just a gentleman’s game,” says Indian batter, Harleen Deol

Cosmo India spoke to the 24-year-old for whom nothing gets bigger than playing for India. 

17 June, 2023
Pitch Please: “It’s not just a gentleman’s game,” says Indian batter, Harleen Deol

Two years ago, a sensational catch by her against England in a T20 match left everyone with their jaws on the floor; it also got her praise from cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar. Her immense presence of mind and calibre in that match were appreciated by many. Apart from the field, you may have also seen her sunshine-esque energy on her Instagram profile. It’s safe to say, Harleen Deol can't go unnoticed (and should not!) The fourth in our series, ‘Pitch Please,’ Deol’s love affair with cricket began when she was eight and it’s only grown since. This year, she played for Gujarat Giants for the inaugural season of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) and scored more than 200 runs by the end of the tournament. The right-hand batter has a long way to go, and we can hardly wait to see her journey unfold.

Her nonchalant yet warm presence and fun-loving energy were apparent as she spoke to Cosmopolitan India about her wins, losses, and everything in between. 

Cosmopolitan India: When did you start playing cricket?


Harleen Deol (HD): I started playing cricket when I was about eight years old. I used to play all sports in school and also played at the national level. But cricket was close to my heart, so when I was selected for the district and then state levels, I wanted to continue on that path.  

CI: How did you first get inclined towards cricket? 

HD: No one in my family had a sports background; everybody was into academics, but my parents had always given me the freedom to become whatever I wished to be. My brother and I used to watch many matches and that was probably how I was inclined to the game. 

CI: Who was your cricket role model as a child?

HD: Throughout my entire childhood, I have imitated almost everyone's batting and bowling actions—Shoaib Akhtar’s celebration, Harbhajan Singh’s action, and so on. I used to admire a lot of them, and say things like, "I want to play a cover drive like Sachin". I loved Bret Lee. 

CI: How important is your parents' support for you? 

HD: It is very important because kids are always in a learning phase, and if you fall, you know your parents are going to be there to support you. I had never thought I will come this far, but my parents were always encouraging. 

CI: How do you think your experience in this space of women’s cricket was different from your seniors like, Mithali Raj or Jhulan Goswami?


HD: Honestly, it’s because they have endured, that we are blessed today. Their stories and what they have done for Indian cricket are incredible. I cannot even think about playing a sport at a time when there was no support from the crowds or parents. At that time, it wasn’t even about the money. Now, we are very conscious about living a healthy lifestyle for which you need money.

CI: How was the WPL experience for you? 


HD: It was unimaginable. Our team always spoke about the IPL, and now we have a WPL—it’s a dream come true. Even now, when I remember the beautiful opening ceremony, I have goosebumps. 

CI: What has been your most memorable inning so far?

HD: I was the captain of the North Zone during. one of the under-19 Zonal matches, and we were bowling first. They scored about 200 or 300 runs. The next day, we were all out within 29 runs and I was so upset that I decided to open the next innings. I ended up playing the whole day and scored 116 runs. It gave me a lot of confidence and remains one of the most memorable matches till day. 

CI: How do you deal with losing a game? 

HD: I am a very passionate sportsperson. I need to give all my games a 100 per cent. I hate losing; it's very frustrating. But I also feel that losing or failing gives you a chance to rectify your mistakes and also teaches you to accept things and situations. If you cannot accept a loss, you're just hurting yourself and you cannot move forward. 

CI: Would you say that the kind of captaincy also matters when you lose a match?  

HD: It definitely plays a role. The energy of the players who are sitting outside is also important. It’s never just about the cricketer who is playing; it’s about everyone involved. During the WPL, one of our experienced bowlers, Ashleigh Gardner gave away too many runs, and everyone in the team thought maybe it wasn’t a great day for her. She was very furious. I gave her a hug and told her that she was going to take wickets in the next overs. And she did. 

CI: What is your head space before a match? 

HD: I am quite calm before a match. If I see someone is nervous or sitting quietly, I’ll go and talk to her. I crack jokes—I want people to be happy and positive around me. I don’t get nervous before a match, I just want to go out there and play. 

CI: You played for India for the first time in 2019. What went through your mind when you got that selection call? 


HD: At that time, I saw a flashback of everything I had gone through—from playing as a young girl to all the achievements I had made to date. I was very happy. I remember I had called my mom to inform her. She thought someone was pranking me. And the next thing I know, I was wearing the Indian jersey for the first time. I kept looking in the mirror in disbelief.

CI: At a recent event, you said that cricket is not just a gentleman's game. Take us through this perception and how people have responded to it. 

HD: When I was younger and used to play with boys, people would say: "It’s okay, she’s young, and she can play." But as I grew older, I remember my relatives would tell my mom, "Your daughter is a grown-up now, stop making her play sports and all now," and my mom would reply, "It’s her choice and there’s nothing wrong in playing with boys or even playing the sport." Now, those same relatives tell my mom that they watched me on TV. 

CI: How is the bond in the team and how has it grown over the years?


HD: It’s indescribable. Everything is so positive; there’s so much young energy in the team. I've made friends for life, and I know they’ll be there whenever I need them. I love being around the team all the time. 

CI: What do you do on your days off?     

HD: We often plan breakfasts or lunches. I love going shopping on my off days. We also have jam sessions.
CI: You have a million followers on Instagram—what are the pros and cons for you? 

HD: I think there are two sides to it all. Back then, if you scored runs, people didn't know about it or even recognise you, but when you don’t perform well, people start posting negative comments on your pictures. You just need to stand up for yourself. We’ve all seen what Virat Kohli, M S Dhoni, and Mithu di (Mithali Raj) have done for Indian cricket and even they receive hateful comments. It will always be there. We just need to accept it and move forward. 

CI: What is your biggest dream? 

HD: Winning a World Cup for India. I hope it happens soon.

CI: What keeps you going every day? 

HD: Playing for India keeps me going every time. It’s about trying to reach the next level. Personally, I like to keep working on myself because it helps in cricket and beyond it. 

'Pitch Please,' a series of interviews that delves deep into stories that lie beyond the boundary, we take you through the journey of the pioneers and the youngest of the lot and give you an insight into their mind and heart.

Also read: Pitch Please: Former India captain Mithali Raj on discipline, failure, and the dream to win a World Cup

Also read: Pitch Please: Shweta Sehrawat on playing new roles, being consistent, and focusing on growth