Kiran Navgire was training in Puducherry a few days ago when she received a call from the logistics department of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). An official asked for Navgire’s passport details and a few other documents, saying that those would be required to book her tickets.
A curious Kiran inquired what the destination was. “It’s for the national camp,” said the official, without revealing anything more. Hanging up the phone, Navgire thought for a moment whether she was indeed being considered for the India women’s team camp. But then, she decided not to get carried away and just focus on her off-season training.
But on Friday evening, Navgire suddenly found herself being added to the official WhatsApp group of the Indian women’s team, and within minutes, she received formal communication from the Board about her selection in India’s T20 squad for the tour of England. And that was the moment when Navgire, who had held it together since that first phone call, finally gave way to her emotions.
“For a moment I thought it was a dream. But then, my phone was flooded with messages from teammates,” Navgire told Sportstar.
“I closed my eyes, thanked my stars and pictured that moment when Mahendra Singh Dhoni sir clinched the World Cup title for India. Ever since I started playing cricket, I dreamed of winning a World Cup for the women’s team and finally, I have taken a step closer to realising my dreams,” an emotional Navgire said.
Those who know Navgire closely are aware of her admiration for Dhoni and a few years ago, she had given up athletics and pursued cricket solely for the love of the former India captain.
“Like any other cricketer, I too, dreamed of playing for the country, but to be honest, I did not think that it would happen so soon,” she said.
Even a few months ago, Navgire was yet another domestic batter waiting for an opportunity. But things changed for her quickly as she emerged as the leading run-scorer for Nagaland in the Senior Women’s T20 tournament. Her consistent performances earned her a spot in the Women’s T20 Challenge in May where she played for Velocity and hammered a half-century in her debut innings.
“After the Women’s T20 Challenge got over, I decided to go back to my training and was gearing up for this year’s domestic season. That was the whole focus and I knew that I had to score runs to be in the national reckoning,” the 27-year-old said.
“This certainly came as a surprise and I will do everything to ensure that I improve my game and help India win as many matches as possible,” she said.
In the off-season training, she decided to improve her shots on the off-side and prepare to play short-pitched deliveries. “When I played domestic cricket, itna zyada short-pitch koi daalta nahi tha (no one bowled very short), so that was a mistake I had made earlier as I did not focus on that area. But now, I am working on all aspects of the game under the watchful eyes of my coach…”
Navgire had difficulty tackling short-pitched deliveries throughout the Women’s T20 Challenge and decided to improve in that area.
“During the tournament, the opponents had a plan for me on the leg-side and I was trapped there, so that’s when I realised that I need to be comfortable on both the on and the off sides if I want to play for India,” she said.
While she hasn’t made many technical changes to her batting, some tips from the Indian internationals helped her improve her game.
“During the Women’s T20 Challenge, all the players of the Velocity team were very supportive. Players like Sneh Rana, Radha Yadav and others helped me a lot. Initially, we were a little scared of talking to them as we were new, but eventually, they were very friendly and guided us well. Those learnings helped…”
Not long ago, the 27 year old aspired to be a top athlete. Hailing from Maharashtra’s Solapur district, she 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.
While she kept winning medals in javelin throw at the local level and in the age-group events in the state, Kiran realised that she needed more opportunities and better infrastructure to grow as an athlete.
And suddenly in 2017, barely a few months before the Indian 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 had said earlier.
Her athletics background helped her get accustomed to cricket and slowly, Navgire made it to the Maharashtra squad about three years ago.
However, she couldn’t cement her place in the State team and moved to Nagaland as a guest player this season.
“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 in Pune and chase my dreams…”
After years of dreaming to don the Indian colours, the moment is finally here for Kiran. UK calling!