Women’s T20 challenge: Focus on Kiran Navgire, Sri Lanka tour selection
- The batter hit a record 162 off 76 balls in a domestic T20 game. The three-team Women’s T20 Challenge starting on Monday will be a perfect step up
It was in the 2018 edition of the Women’s T20 Challenge held in Jaipur that power-hitter Shafali Verma was discovered. A few months later, the 15-year-old from Rohtak made her India debut, emerging the world’s best T20 batter in 2021.
This season’s tournament might spring another surprise with the spotlight on 26-year-old Kiran Prabhu Navgire, who hails from Solapur in Maharashtra but built her reputation with Nagaland and will be playing for Velocity, led by Deepti Sharma, in the three-team competition.
The captain is impressed with Navgire’s power-hitting talent. After watching her clobber the bowlers in the nets, Sharma said, “I was watching Kiran at the nets for the first time and found she is such a power-hitter. It would be interesting to see her in action.”
Playing for Nagaland as a guest player, the farmer’s daughter made 162 off 76 balls against Arunachal Pradesh, making her the first Indian, male or female, to score 150-plus runs in a T20. In seven matches for Nagaland, she aggregated 525 (54x4, 35x6), the most in the women’s domestic T20 challenge.
Indian players S Meghana and Priya Punia, who will play for the Smriti Mandhana-led Trailblazers, Harleen Deol, who is in the Harmanpreet Kaur-led Supernovas, and Simran Dil Bahadur and Radha Yadav of Velocity have not got many chances to show their talent and will look to impress the selectors in this mini-event.
All eyes will be on Jemimah Rodrigues, who will play for Trailblazers. Her exclusion for the ODI World Cup raised eyebrows after the team failed to make it to the knockouts. Mithali Raj, captain at the World Cup, and pace spearhead Jhulan Goswami, both 39, won’t play in this event being held amid IPL.
Only Sharma, who replaced Raj as Velocity skipper, is new to captaincy.
“When you captain, your responsibility increases. You want to do well and take your team forward. I’ve enjoyed captaincy. I have captained at domestic level. We have foreign players for this tournament and (uncapped) domestic players. The youngsters get to share the experience with the seniors,” said all-rounder Sharma, 24, who has played 58 T20Is and 74 ODIs.
The Indian board, BCCI, is planning to start a six-team women’s IPL next year, and this edition of the T20 exhibition is likely to be the final tune-up event. Not held last year amid the raging pandemic, BCCI announced this year’s event will be held from May 23 to 28 at Pune’s Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium.
A total of 12 overseas players, from Australia, England, West Indies and South Africa, will participate. Interestingly, some top cricketers like Suzie Bates, Heather Knight, Marizanne Kapp, Shabnim Ismail, Danni Wyatt, Chamari Athapaththu and Jahanara Alam, who all played in the recent Fairbreak T20 Invitational League in Dubai, won’t participate. India’s Harmanpreet and Deepti were not allowed to compete in the event and instead asked to play for their state teams after a poor showing in New Zealand.
The lone Australia player is spinner Alana King, who is of Anglo-Indian heritage and has roots in Chennai. She will play for Supernovas. Sophie Ecclestone and Sophia Dunkley Brown (England), Laura Wolvaardt and Suné Luus (South Africa), Deandra Dottin and Hayley Matthews (West Indies) and Natthakan Chantham of Hong Kong are some of the foreign players who will play in the tournament.
The fourth edition of the event will also help Indian players push for selection to tour Sri Lanka for three ODIs and T20Is each (June 23 to July 7). The Supernovas won the title in the first two seasons, while Trailblazers won the last edition in the UAE.
Smriti Mandhana (c), Poonam Yadav (vc), Arundhati Reddy, Hayley Matthews, Jemimah Rodrigues, Priyanka Priyadarshini, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Renuka Singh, Richa Ghosh, S Meghana, Saiqa Ishaque, Salma Khatun, Sharmin Akhter, Sophia Brown, Sujata Mallik, SB Pokharkar
Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Taniya Bhatia (vc), Alana King, Ayushi Soni, Chandu V, Deandra Dottin, Harleen Deol, Meghna Singh, Monica Patel, Muskan Malik, Pooja Vastrakar, Priya Punia, Rashi Kanojia, Sophie Ecclestone, Sune Luus, Mansi Joshi
Deepti Sharma (c), Sneh Rana (vc), Shafali Verma, Ayabonga Khaka, Kiran Navgire, Kathryn Cross, Keerthi James, Laura Wolvaardt, Maya Sonawane, Natthakan Chantham, Radha Yadav, Aarti Kedar, Shivali Shinde, Simran Bahadur, Yastika Bhatia, Pranavi Chandra.