Asian Games: There’s an opportunity in every difficulty, says Khadeer on Harmanpreet’s ban

Gunning for the gold medal at the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou, the Indian women’s cricket team will miss the services of captain Harmanpreet Kaur in their first two games, due to the ban after her outburst in Bangladesh.

Harmanpreet was handed a two-match ban by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for smashing the stumps to protest her dismissal and then criticising the umpire in the third ODI loss to hosts Bangladesh in July. Heading into the Asian Games in Hangzhou, India have a bye into the quarter-finals, and in that scenario, Harmanpreet will only be able to take the field if the team reaches the final of the tournament.

Former India spinner-turned-coach Nooshin Al Khadeer feels there’s an opportunity in every difficulty, and Harmanpreet’s absence could present an opportunity for the others to rise and contribute to India’s win.


“Any team would want to go in with their core team, but unfortunately as Harmanpreet is out of the first two games, it will present a very good chance for a benched player to prove herself. In every difficulty there’s an opportunity, so it will give India a chance to test its bench,” the former India off-spinner told The Statesman, in an interview facilitated by Sony Sports Network.

The 42-year-old, who was the interim coach of the Indian women’s team during the tour of Bangladesh, urged everyone to move on from the Harmanpreet saga in Dhaka.

“The incident took place in July, now we are in September… We should move on and look forward to the Asian Games now. Harmanpreet is back to cricket, let’s take some pride and glory in the fact that our men’s team won the Asia Cup and look at the Asian Games for more success for both sides,” she said.

In Harmanpreet’s absence, all eyes will be on Smriti Mandhana, who will look to marshal her resources and ensure India’s entry into the final. Hailing Smriti’s leadership skills, Nooshin said that the southpaw brings in the calming influence even when the team is in a tight situation.

“I have seen Smriti doing well whenever she has had the chance to lead. She also captains Maharashtra. Her approach towards youngsters is remarkable, they look up to her. Mithali Raj (former skipper) used to be calm while Harmanpreet is the aggressive one. Smriti too is calm,” said Nooshin on Smriti, who has previously led India on 11 occasions.

Nooshin is confident that India, the top-seeded side in the tournament, have the potential to go all the way to the top of the podium but at the same time cautioned the side against complacency as the other teams will also come well prepared.

“India should win gold; we have always done well against Asian sides. Medium-pacer Titas Sadhu is an exciting prospect, the way she has grown in fitness and skill after the U-19 World Cup. All-rounder Pooja Vastrakar has come into the squad in place of the injured left-arm seamer Anjali Sarvani.”

“We have a bright chance in terms of depth. There are a lot of all-rounders who can roll their arms and bat as well. Richa (Ghosh) coming in and Pooja’s inclusion has added depth to India’s batting. Not many are aware that Minnu Mani is a very good all-rounder,” she said.

“Yes, the other teams are playing some fantastic cricket but if we look at the positives, we are going to have a few exciting games. We don’t want one-sided matches. Sri Lanka has come good against England, Bangladesh has really done well over a period of time, Pakistan has done well against South Africa…they have some fabulous players,” she added.

The Indian women’s team is without a head coach for months now, and in the past few months, it’s been a sort of musical chair between Nooshin and the batting coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar, with the latter assuming the role for the Asian Games.

On being asked how difficult it is for the players to have a different set of support staff for every series, Nooshin, who guided the Indian women’s U-19 side to the World title, and the U-23 team to the Emerging Asia Cup title, said it is the decision of the board and at the same time also shared her experiences of leading the senior side.

“It is the decision of the board, yes Hrishikesh has been with the team for a long time, and he has been a part of the NCA, so he brings in a lot of inputs that helps the side. For the Bangladesh tour, I was handed the responsibility, it was a great learning experience for me as well as the girls. We as coaches bring in our own set of techniques, but that’s the challenge of professional cricket, one has to adapt to different coaches at every step of their careers,” said Nooshin, who ended with 100 wickets from 78 One Day Internationals during her playing career.

“As far as my roles with the teams are concerned, I have been a part of the U-19 then the U-23 side and now the senior side. All the three were different experiences, considering the maturity levels of the players, and it has been an enriching experience for me in all the teams,” said Nooshin, who is also a coach of the Railways side in domestic cricket.

The women’s tournament will take place from September 19 to 25. Group A has Indonesia and Mongolia and Group B Hong Kong and Malaysia. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have been granted direct entry into the last eight.

The matches will be telecast live on Sony Sports Network and streamed on Sony Liv.