Women’s T20 Challenge 2022: Kiran Navgire and the art of power-hitting


Indian women’s cricket has mostly been about the Mithali Rajs, Smriti Mandhanas and Harmanpreet Kaurs. In the last three years or so, the likes of Yastika Bhatia and Shafali Verma have come to the fore. However, all of the above are either top-order batters or someone who bats at No.4 or 5.

However, if three to four early wickets go down, India face trouble with their batting lineup. Even as the likes of Richa Ghosh and Pooja Vastrakar can play the big shots, India have lacked a genuine power-hitter.

Deandra Dottin, Chamari Athapaththu, Marizanne Kapp, Ashleigh Gardner, Nat Sciver and Sophie Devine can clear the ropes at will. After years of search, India might just have unearthed someone who can, maybe, score at a strike-rate of above 200.

Back in 2019, the Women’s T20 Challenge gave rise to a 15-year-old Shafali. This time around, it’s 27-year-old Kiran Navgire, who has taken fairly rapid strides.

BABY STEPS FOR NAVGIRE

The Senior Women’s T20 Trophy is yet to garner enough fandom to gain the required attention. But it’s the same tournament that gave Navgire’s career a new lease of life. After not being able to play for Maharashtra, the right-hander made a shift to Nagaland and from there on, she hasn’t looked back.

More than scoring 525 runs at a strike rate of 173, it’s her ability to generate serious power that hogged the headlines. Not even the 162 not out that she scored against Arunachal Pradesh – the highest individual scorer by an Indian batter in a T20.

It didn’t spring a surprise that she found a spot in the Women’s T20 Challenge and made her debut in the game against Harmanpreet Kaur’s Supernovas. She didn’t bat in that game even after the Velocity lost three wickets in their run-chase.

But while chasing 192 against the Trailblazers, the Velocity promoted her to No.3. Shafali and Yastika Bhatia had taken their team off to a fairly flying start with a 36-run partnership off four overs. But they needed someone to carry on with the good start since the target was still a stiff one.

NAVGIRE BREAKS FREE

Off-spinner Salma Khatun is no slouch with truckloads of experience under her belt for Bangladesh. She was brimming with confidence after rattling Bhatia’s woodwork. But she was greeted with a big big surprise from Navgire.

Khatun bowled one outside the off-stump and Navgire got on one knee, fetched the ball from outside the off-stump. The ball sailed over the ropes and Navgire got off the mark with a colossal six over deep mid-wicket. Khatun must not be used to such treatment.

Once she got into her groove, hitting boundaries seemed like bread and butter for Navgire. She reminded a lot of Virender Sehwag after she raced away to her half-century with a clean hit off Rajeshwari Gayakwad over long on.

Mind you, it was her maiden innings in the T20 Challenge and she made own the record for the fastest fifty in the history of the T20 tournament off a mere 25 balls.

In the end, it ended with after a loopy leg-break from Sophia Dunkley that got rid of Navgire, who maintained a strike rate of above 200 in her 69-run knock.

After she got out, the Velocity innings collapsed and they lost the match in Pune by 16 runs. But the fact that they scored above 158 – the qualification mark in the game against the Trailblazers – made sure that they will face the Supernovas in the final on Saturday.

HOW LONG BEFORE A INDIA CALL-UP?

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Kiran Navgire (left). Courtesy: Yastika Bhatia Instagram

It goes without saying that Navgire has emerged as one of the prospects for the Indian women’s team. But for her to get a national cap, how much time will it take? When Shafali went berserk in 2019, she got a chance to play for India around four months later.

Shafali also went on to play in the T20 World Cup in Australia, where she was one of the main reasons behind India progressing to the final. She also plied her trade in the inaugural Women’s Hundred where she represented the Birmingham Phoenix.

In the 2022 Women’s World Cup, India faced batting woes in the matches against England and New Zealand. Both times, their top-order faltered and the middle-order couldn’t contribute enough.

Mind you, she is more than a handy bowler as well, having picked up seven wickets in the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy. Deepti Sharma is established, but with Navgire waiting in the wings, she can’t afford to drop her guard.

It’s only for time to reveal when she goes on to don the national jersey. Navgire is someone who can add a new dimension to a slightly-fragile Indian batting lineup.





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