Harmanpreet Kaur lined up for KSL bow with Lancashire Thunder
A year after missing out on playing for Surrey Stars due to injuries sustained during the World Cup, India T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur is set to play for Lancashire Thunder in the 2018 edition of the Kia Super League.
While the announcement is yet to be made public, ESPNcricinfo understands Harmanpreet has signed a contract with Lancashire and is set is depart for the UK around July 15. This will make her the second Indian to feature in the KSL this season, alongside her deputy in the T20I side, Smriti Mandhana, who has been brought in by defending champions Western Storm.
Harmanpreet will have her Sydney Thunder captain and former Australia vice-captain Alex Blackwell as coach at Lancashire. Blackwell is set to embark on her maiden coaching assignment at the tournament, having announced a surprise retirement from international cricket in February.
Harmanpreet's recruitment for a first KSL stint is testament to her established stature as one of the most popular and marketable exponents of power-hitting in the women's game. Following her 171 not-out in the 2017 World Cup semi-final against Australia, she earned an extension to her contract with the Sydney Thunder in the Women's Big Bash League for another two seasons, having finished as Thunder's Player of the Tournament in her debut stint in 2016 on the back of formidable all-round exploits.
After her lukewarm second season at the WBBL, Harmanpreet finished as India's third-highest run-getter in the ODI series in South Africa, and led the team to a 3-1 victory in the subsequent T20I series. Thereafter, however, she had a lean patch during the home season that followed where India lost to Australia 3-0 in ODIs, failed to make the final of a T20I tri-series featuring Australia and England, and laboured to a 2-1 ODI series victory against England in April.
Harmanpreet, 29, marked her return to form in the Asia Cup, in Kuala Lumpur, earlier this month where she bagged the Player-of-the-Tournament award for her 156 runs in four innings at an average of 52. Her highest score since the World Cup came during the final of the tournament, where she compiled a gritty, unbeaten 56 and took 2 for 19 as six-time champions India lost to Bangladesh in a final-ball thriller. Upon the team's return to the country, Harmanpreet was conferred with the BCCI's Best-International-Cricketer-of-the-Year (Women) Award for the 2016-17 season.
In May, she captained the IPL Supernovas to victory in the first-ever Women's T20 Challenge exhibition match, at the Wankhede stadium, where Mandhana's Trailblazers lost off the last ball of the game.
Lancashire, who finished at the bottom of the table in the six-team KSL last year after losing all of their five games, are scheduled to kick off their campaign this season against Loughborough Lightning on July 22 at Southport.
While both Harmanpreet and Mandhana will be away in UK, the other regulars of the India women's team will assemble at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore for a training camp around July 25 as part of the team's preparations ahead of the tour of Sri Lanka in September. With the World T20 slated for November in the Caribbean, India could also potentially play a T20I series against West Indies in preparation for the tournament they are yet to win.