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In-form Harmanpreet promises to be 'there for my team' at the biggest stage

Loss in 2017 final not important, "right now it's all about momentum and that's on our side," she says of taking on England

Vishal Dikshit
Vishal Dikshit
Harmanpreet Kaur has been under a bit of pressure to retain her spot in the XI, New Zealand vs India, 5th women's ODI, Queenstown, February 24, 2022

As opposed to her career batting average of 35.17, Harmanpreet Kaur averages a whopping 53.07 in ODI World Cups  •  Getty Images

An ODI average of under 28 between the two World Cups in 2017 and 2022, but an imposing average of 53 in the 18 World Cup innings she has played so far tell the story of a player who steps up on the big stage.
Harmanpreet Kaur had been under pressure before the ongoing World Cup because of a severe lack of runs since the 2017 ODI World Cup, giving an impression that she had been given a long rope because of that epochal 171 not out against Australia in the 2017 semi-final.
But crucial knocks of 109 and 71 against West Indies and New Zealand, respectively, have served a reminder of the value she adds to India's middle order.
"Big tournaments are very important and your role is more important, you need to take more responsibility and perform for your team. Maybe that's the reason [I do well in World Cups]," she said a day before India's game against England in Mount Maunganui. "I always want to give my best for the team but sometimes, things don't go your way. But I'll make sure whenever we play the World Cup, I'll be there for my team."
As opposed to her career batting average of 35.17, Harmanpreet averages a whopping 53.07 in ODI World Cups and has struck three of her four centuries in the format in world tournaments, her World Cup runs coming at a strike rate to 97. In fact, many of the highlights from her ODI career have come in World Cups. ODI debut - 2009 World Cup. Maiden ODI century - 2013 World Cup against England. Her only Player-of-the-Match award in the format - the 2017 World Cup semi-final, of course.
"We want to live in the present and focus on the good things we've done rather than think about past results"
Harmanpreet Kaur on playing against England
Smriti Mandhana, who was involved in a record partnership of 184 with Harmanpreet against West Indies, scoring a century of her own, had said Harmanpreet brought out her "best" self when "her back is towards the wall".
Harmanpreet agreed that backing herself was the key to playing such big innings. "Sometimes, I just need to back myself and that's what I've been doing, like before this West Indies game, and the New Zealand game," she said. "When I bat with Smriti and someone who is already settled, it's always easy for me to settle there and that's what I enjoyed the other day."
Harmanpreet warmed up for the ongoing World Cup with a knock of 104 off 114 balls against South Africa, after she had scored a brisk 63 off 66 against New Zealand in the final ODI of the bilateral series.
"The greatest thing was before the World Cup, we got a five-ODI series against New Zealand, and one T20," she said. "Because of that, we got that momentum and got used to these conditions, and that is the reason which is helping us perform well."
With two wins from three games, India now take on defending champions England, who are in danger of crashing out early after three losses in a row. England had beaten India in the 2017 World Cup final by just nine runs, but Harmanpreet said India were focusing on current form instead of past results.
"If we talk all over, we started that [2017] World Cup by beating England [in the league stage]," she pointed out. "And we can't just focus on past performances. They had played good cricket [in the 2017 final] but right now, it's all about momentum, and that's on our side. We want to focus on our strengths. Past is history and if we focus too much on that, we'll add to our own pressure. We want to live in the present and focus on the good things we've done rather than think about past results."
The only aspect of India's game that Harmanpreet was wary of was losing wickets in clusters, which has happened consistently. They were 112 for 5 against Pakistan, 95 for 5 against New Zealand, and 78 for 3 against West Indies, before the lower-middle order rescued them.
"Sometimes, we are losing back-to-back wickets and if we can work on that… otherwise, things are the way we want them," she said. "Now is the time we just need to stay relaxed and enjoy the situation, because sometimes, that helps you perform better."

Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo