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Crunch Time

Harmanpreet Kaur: 'Nicole Bolton realised I couldn't cook, so she taught me to make eggs'

The India batter on her love for dal, giving up gluten, and surviving long tours without home-cooked food

Harmanpreet Kaur looks on during the match, India vs South Africa, 2nd Women's ODI, Lucknow, March 9, 2021

"I haven't had gluten in any form in the past two years, and it's paid off massively"  •  BCCI

What's your favourite meal?
Dal, or anything gravy-based. But dal of any kind is a perennial favourite. I can have it pretty much every day of the week, and once I spot dal in my plate, my meal is complete.
What Punjabi dish can you brag about being good at making?
I have trouble with the smell of cooking oil. I am not at all good at cooking. I can't even stand around in the kitchen much. Nor do I have much interest in it, to be honest. During the lockdown I tried my hand at learning an Indian dish or two, but without much success. I tried cooking chicken, but then realised yeh mujhse nahi hoga [I can't do this]. It looks a lot easier than it really is.
What is the specialty in your family kitchen?
My parents are vegetarian. My brother and I eat non-vegetarian food only when we eat out. In general, we all eat quite light. The dal that's cooked at home is unmatchable, so that would be my pick for the best dish from the Bhullar household.
Which cricket venue has the best catering?
I remember the food we were served at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi during the 2016 T20 World Cup match against Pakistan was outstanding . That's the only international game I have played in Delhi to date, but the sumptuousness of the meals remains unforgettable.
In general, no matter which part of India you play in, I feel you get served very good food. And that applies to overseas players, too. I think our board is good at ensuring the touring party is well looked after, food-wise. So they allocate chefs based on the food preferences of the foreign players. But when we tour overseas, getting used to sandwiches for the majority of the tour can be a bit challenging.
Which cricketer you know is the best cook?
My friend Noopur [Kashyap], who played a bit of cricket with me in Punjab, is a terrific cook. Even if you wake her up in the middle of the night, she'll whip up something amazing for you to eat. Among international cricketers, Australia's Nicole Bolton has pretty impressive skills. During my debut season with Lancashire Thunder at the Kia Super League, I shared an apartment with her. Initially, while she would prepare her own breakfast, I would wait until 10am for the eateries to open, so I could eat out. After a point, Bolton realised I couldn't cook (laughs), so she taught me a few egg dishes. That was really nice of her to do.
What does your match-day meal plan typically look like?
I like to eat light before all games, or else you can feel bloated quite easily, and it will affect your natural rhythm and running. When playing in India, I usually go for boiled rice, dal, and whatever vegetarian starters there are. After the game, I opt for a heavy meal, a nice balance of proteins and carbs, to make up for lost calories.
Is there a food item you always carry on tour?
I like to take energy bars with me because you never know what sort of food arrangements will be available overseas. I can live on sandwiches only for a day or two and then I will invariably be, like, "Nahi, yaar, I am done." So it helps if you want to have a quick bite and have an energy bar or two on you. They are quite light and help you stay full.
What does your cheat meal typically comprise?
Mostly sweets. I am a sucker for barfi and milk cake.
What's your favourite post-workout snack?
I usually don't experiment much, I try to stick to something egg-based or a plant-based protein.
Is there something you have removed from or added to your diet as part of a fitness regimen?
I have had to entirely bid goodbye to gluten. As you know, Punjabi families thrive on gluten. Rotis, parathas - there's no escaping it if you're a Punjabi. But I haven't had gluten in any form in the past two years. That decision has paid off massively as my recovery post-match or post-injury has become quicker.

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha