Athletics’ loss is cricket’s gain - the Kiran Prabhu Navgire story

In the opening fixture of Senior Women's T20 tournament last week, Kiran hammered a blistering 162 not out off just 76 balls against Arunachal Pradesh, and followed it up with a couple of half-centuries.

A few years ago, when Kiran took up cricket, she was not sure how her career would pan out, but now, after making her presence felt, she wants to dream big.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Not long ago, Kiran Prabhu Navgire aspired to be a top athlete. Hailing from Maharashtra’s Solapur district, Kiran would often travel to Pune or Ahmednagar to participate in local athletics championships and on most occasions, would return home with a bagful of medals in javelin throw and 4x100m relay.

She would read about noted Indian athletes and dream of emulating them someday. Her father, a farmer, would tell her stories about how Milkha Singh or PT Usha battled the odds to chase their dreams, and in her teens, Kiran would be in awe every time she heard those stories.

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While she kept winning medals in javelin throw at the local level and in the age-group events in the state, Kiran slowly realised that she needed more opportunities to grow as an athlete and needed better infrastructure.

And suddenly in 2017, barely a few months before India’s women’s cricket team reached the final of the World Cup, Kiran travelled to Pune in a bid to start afresh. She had heard about the Azam Sports Academy, and after reaching the city, she visited the academy, met the coaches and slowly got inspired to play cricket. Initially, the transition was difficult, but within a few months, she picked up the sport.

“My father is a farmer, so coming from a lower middle-class family, I did not have any idea about women’s cricket. My father was a big fan of athletics, so he inspired me to take it up at an early age, and that's how I got into javelin and 4x100m relay. But as I grew up, I would often play cricket with the boys in my area, but never thought of taking it up seriously,” Kiran tells Sportstar.

Her athletics background helped her get accustomed to cricket and slowly, she made it to the Maharashtra squad. “Coming from a lower middle-class family, pursuing a sport as a career was never easy. But after taking up cricket, I knew that this is where I belong. I worked hard on my sport and now I also give training to young cricketers at the academy and that’s how I could continue. Staying away from home is expensive, but I earn about Rs 7000-8000 from coaching to run the show in Pune and chase my dreams,” she says.

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While she was excited to break into the Maharashtra squad about three years ago, Kiran couldn’t really cement her place, and this season, she moved to Nagaland as a guest player and is currently having a dream run in the Senior Women’s T20 tournament. “I was not getting enough opportunities in Maharashtra, so last year when I got this offer from Nagaland, I decided to take up the challenge and play for a plate team. It was a big challenge, but I am happy that I took it,” she says.

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In the opening fixture last week, she hammered a blistering 162 not out off just 76 balls against Arunachal Pradesh, and followed it up with a couple of half-centuries. “My aim is to make the most of the opportunity and help my team. After I scored 162, my teammates told me that I am the only Indian to cross the 150-run mark in T20s. I didn’t know about it and it felt really good,” she says. At 25, she now wants to keep the momentum going and break into the Indian team soon. “My aim is to guide India to a World Cup title and I am working hard to make it to the Indian team. I hope my performances will help,” she says.

A few years ago, when Kiran took up cricket, she was not sure how her career would pan out, but now, after making her presence felt, she wants to dream big. An ardent fan of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Kiran feels that this is her opportunity and she cannot afford to miss the bus.

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