As they settled back in the pavilion, having recently been dismissed, Alyssa Healy and Tahlia McGrath might have thought their time in the Women’s Premier League (WPL) would have an unpropitious initiation. Chasing a target of 170 runs against Gujarat Giants on 5 March, UP Warriorz were reeling at 20/3.
The presumption turned out to be erroneous, owing to the emergence of an unlikely knight in shining armour among the overseas stars – Kiran Navgire. A 43-ball 53, which comprised five boundaries and a couple of gigantic sixes, one over deep midwicket and the other over long-on, was followed by two occurrences – the Warriorz bagged two points, and Kiran bagged all the applauds as she returned to the dressing room.
Reminiscing 5 March’s match, Kiran informs The Quint in an exclusive conversation “Praises were showered on me when I returned to the dressing room. To have these international stalwarts appreciating your efforts is a huge motivation, it only pushes you to cover the extra mile.”
For those familiar with the Indian women's domestic circuit, however, the knock was far from being a pleasant surprise. It is only last year that Kiran made ripples with a historic achievement – not metaphorically, but literally. She scored a 76-ball 162 in a Senior Women’s T20 Trophy game, thereby becoming the first-ever Indian player to breach the 150-run mark in T20 cricket, across both men’s and women’s cricket.
Yet, even a few years ago, she was not harbouring dreams of being a professional cricketer. All aboard the time machine to 2016.
From 400 Metres, to 22 Yards
Then a 22-year-old, Kiran had already experienced success in sports, albeit in a different realm. She had won over a hundred medals in athletics, wherein she excelled in javelin throw, 100-metre sprinting and shot put.
“Cricket was not really a part of my childhood. I used to fool around with plastic balls, but that was about it. Instead, I was into athletics since the fifth standard. Athletics happened to be the only option available in my school, so I could not really look beyond that,” she informs us, reminiscing about her childhood.
Having been content with the athletics medals all her life, Kiran experienced a raucous, yet decisive epiphany when she arrived in Pune.
I devoted all my time and energy to athletics till 2016. I had won many regional, and even national-level medals, but eventually realised that there is only so much one can do here. When I arrived in Pune, my horizons were broadened. I saw a host of girls playing cricket, so with nothing but blind hope, I decided to start afresh. Aur bas, ho gaya.Kiran Navgire, UP Warriorz cricketer
Becoming a Professional
Although hell-bent on making it big in cricket, Kiran faced a couple of hurdles. Approaching her mid-twenties, she was not particularly a spring chicken, whilst hailing from a family of farmers, the requisition of making ends meet was also ubiquitous. Moreover, cricket gears are not known for paying for themselves.
Like the problems, she also devised a couple of solutions – playing in the local invitational tournaments, ones that usually paid anything between Rs 500-1000 for a game, and coaching the school kids. The former ended up being her icebreaker.
I was playing all these invitational cricket tournaments in Pune – ones where you get daily wages. The Maharashtra selectors were present at one such tournament, and fortunately enough, I managed to score a century in only the first match. They called me aside after the game and advised me to make this my profession. Ab itne bade bade log mujhe bol rahe, main bhi socha ki chalo thoda seriously lu cricket ko.Kiran Navgire, UP Warriorz cricketer
A New Home in Nagaland
Although the epiphany had arrived, the experience didn’t. Amid her exuberance, a lack of expertise meant that she was unsuccessful in her first trial for the Maharashtra team.
“I was not successful in my first attempt, but I was determined not to let the disappointment affect me. It was only recently that I took the sport seriously, and there were plenty of weaknesses in my game. The next year was about working on those weaknesses, which turned out to be beneficial as I was selected in my second attempt,” she states.
In another fortunate coincidence, she learned that Nagaland were looking for ‘guest’ players from other states, whilst coming to terms with rejections from her state. “I submitted my resume immediately after being informed, and it all worked out well,” Kiran proudly informs.
A 74-metre hit against the experienced Sneh Rana, followed by the recent 78-metre hit against the highly rated Amelia Kerr, were testaments to her sheer power.
On being asked about the secret behind these monstrous strikes, Kiran replies “I come from a family of farmers. Even today, I help my parents out at the farm whenever I am at home and have time to spare. My farming background, alongside my time in athletics, made me strong since a very young age.”
Will we see her gradually adapting to a less flamboyant, less risky batting approach? Does not seem likely, as her confident answer is “Main bas maarna enjoy karti hu. Nothing gives me more pleasure than smashing the ball out of the park, so whenever I go out to bat, it remains my number one target.”
The Dhoni Devotee, Dreaming Of ‘Doing a Dhoni'
The farmlands and the sprinting tracks, albeit being an inextricable part of her childhood, have not shaped her batting, and from the broader perspective, her cricketing style, in the manner that Mahendra Singh Dhoni has. The 'MSD 07' inscription on her bat speaks volume about her fandom.
A staunch devotee of the former Indian captain, Kiran says “I was studying in class 11 when our country won the World Cup for the first time in 28 years – under MS Dhoni’s captaincy. Since then, he has been my biggest inspiration and I have tried to emulate him every step of the way.”
Now, having made it this far in her career, she harbours the dream of ‘doing a Dhoni,’ that is, lifting the ultimate crown.
“I have been dreaming of having the World Cup in my hands ever since I started playing cricket. Until that dream is realised, I have zero plans of stopping. Main rukne waalon me se nahin hoon,” the player signs off.
Cue the ‘bas rukna nahin chahti’ line from Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, will you?