Women’s T20 Challenge 2022: Kiran Navgire makes a case for national callup as Velocity reach final – Firstcricket News, Firstpost
Following the familiar script, the last round-robin encounter between Velocity and Trailblazers also witnessed a number of Women’s T20 Challenge batting records being shattered on Thursday, in Pune.
In the first game, Supernovas made the new record for the highest powerplay score (58) and team total (163). In the second game, Velocity registered the highest successful chase (151), which at that time was also the highest second innings score.
On Thursday, first innings total, second innings total, powerplay score; all the records were broken as Velocity booked a place in the final despite a defeat to Trailblazers. With both sides finishing on the same number of points, Velocity’s superior net run rate allowed them to qualify for the summit clash against Supernovas.
Trailblazers did try their best to spoil the party for Velocity and amassed 190/5 batting first; the highest team total in the Women’s T20 Challenge history. In reply, Velocity needed to reach a minimum of 159 to get to the final but they were aiming for the target of 191 as they made a new powerplay score (68) and second innings total (174) records.
At the centre of all this mayhem was the unheralded Kiran Prabhu Navgire. The Maharashtra-born cricketer, who now plays for Nagaland in the domestic circuit, muscled the fastest fifty of the tournament in just 25 balls. Batting for the first time in the tournament, she finished with 69 runs off 34 balls, striking at 203.
She broke the record (30 balls) of Shafali Verma, who got to it just in the last game against Supernovas. And just like Shafali or Richa Ghosh, who was fast-tracked into the Indian team after lighting up the stage at the Women’s T20 Challenge, Navgire could start to dream big.
However, it will be an injustice not to reflect back on her whirlwind innings that has been the biggest reminder so far of the depth of the women’s game in India and their growing strength.
Navgire came into the tournament having made 525 runs in the recent Senior Women’s T20 Trophy at a strike rate of 173. Her highest score of 162 not out is the highest individual score for an Indian batter — men or women —in T20s. Her debut came against Supernovas but she did not get a chance to bat after being pushed down the order.
Against Trailblazers, chasing a target of 191, Velocity had no other option but to call upon the brute strength of Navgire. The right-hander walked in at No 3 to partner Shafali in the middle. One over later Shafali was gone for 29 off 15. The onus now fell on the inexperienced Navgire.
‘What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’
Instead of crumbling under pressure, Navgire revelled in it, taking the internationally proven bowlers to the cleaners. She announced her arrival with a first-ball slog sweep six over the deep mid-wicket against 2022 World Cup star Salma Khatun. The sweet sound of the bat must be still reverberating in the ears of the fans. She may have begun with a slog sweep but it wasn’t just mad hitting from the batter. Navgire’s innings was a well-calculated high-risk knock complimented excellently by her big-hitting skills.
“(MS) Dhoni’s sir World Cup-winning six impressed me a lot and I want to hit such sixes in all my innings,” Navgire would say after the match.
The Dhoni fan, just like her idol, targeted the long-on and mid-wicket areas for the big shots. If it was pitched up, she swept it over the fence. If was dragged down, she stepped out for shots over the straight boundary line. If none of this was possible, she attempted back-foot drives through the cover region. If 44 of her 69 runs came in front of the square on the legside, the opposite region produced 18 runs. The most vital part of her innings was how she kept rotating the strike when boundary shots were not possible.
Over a fourth of her runs came in singles and doubles while she played only five dot balls. Another aspect of her batting that left an impression was the maturity shown while leading Velocity’s charge. Despite playing her first match of the tournament, Navgire never looked under the pump and kept her side within touching distance of the record chase till her dismissal.
With T20 World Cup early next year and India taking part in the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the need of the hour is to build a challenging unit in a quick time and Navgire will go a long way in solving the puzzle.
Another player to throw her hat in the ring was Sabbhineni Meghana, who was also making her tournament debut. Playing for Trailblazers, the India cricketer smashed 73 off 47 including four sixes. With little assistance for bowlers from the pitch, teams resorted to spinners and slower deliveries to curtail the flow of runs. Meghana countered the strategy by using her feet whenever possible and it resulted in some delectable sixes down the ground. The opener missed out on a berth for the 2022 ODI World Cup as she was part of the reserves but should be soon accompanying Navgire into the squad.
Velocity need to improve fielding
The stage is set for the final. Supernovas will take on Velocity in the summit clash on 28 May. Velocity qualified for the final on NRR and they will be still smarting from the defeat against Trailblazers, especially with how they fielded.
Meghana and Jemimah Rodrigues’ fifties propelled Trailblazers to the record team total but both the batters were given two reprieves each by Velocity fielders. Their fielding overall was sub-standard with fielders leaking runs here and there. On the other hand, Supernovas have some of the best catchers in Harmanpreet Kaur, Priya Punia and Harleen Deol.
Velocity are aiming to win their first Women’s T20 Challenge title but they shouldn’t forget that they were punished for their poor fielding against Trailblazers and will be punished again in the final if their fielding standard stays the same.
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