When Heather Knight slog-swept Deepti Sharma into the hands of Kiran Navgire at the D.Y. Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Wednesday night, a Royal Challengers Bangalore fan could well have said, “Not again”.
RCB had slumped to 60 for four. Already back in the dugout were Smriti Mandhana, Sophie Devine and Ellyse Perry.
Though the target set by UP Warriorz was a modest 137, RCB had shown, in its previous five matches in the Women’s Premier League, that it was capable of snatching a defeat from every situation.
So a sixth loss on the trot didn’t look unlikely at all. RCB thus would have become the first side to go out of contention for a place in the playoffs.
But, Kanika Ahuja, who watched Knight getting out, was determined to take her team to that badly-needed win. She did — with the best knock yet by an uncapped player at the WPL.
Her 30-ball 46 and her 60-run stand with Richa Ghosh ended the horrendous run for the star-studded RCB. “I just wanted to win the match for RCB,” the 20-year-old said shortly after playing the innings that she will never forget. “The target wasn’t big, so I could wait for the loose balls.”
The left-hander actually showed excellent temperament and belied her lack of experience, as she took her team closer to the target. She was inspired by what Virat Kohli told the RCB women’s team earlier in the day. “Something he said stuck to my mind,” she said. “While on the ground, we should not see it as pressure, but it is a pleasure [to play]. Not a lot of people get to do that,” Kohli had said.
She wanted to dedicate her knock to her mother. “Though my family didn’t even know of the existence of women’s cricket, my mother supported me, though it may initially have been only to stop me from flying kites on the terrace all day,” she said. “I am playing for my mother, who is not physically well now.”