Cricket is not divided, it is just found in every part of the world, on the grounds, in the clubs and in the gullies. Coming from the state of Rajasthan, this team Delhi sensation is all set to don in the blue. Priya Punia, the 22 year old right handed batter who has recently been called up for the New Zealand tour of the women in blue, is all set to take up this honour.
Trained by her own father and scoring two amazing centuries in the senior women’s one day matches, this young lady is someone to certainly watch out for. A complete sports enthusiast, especially a badminton and cricket lover has chosen her path that is lead on through the stretch of 22 yards. A player who focuses on improving each day and becoming one of the top names in the books of cricket. Idolizing Rahul Dravid, Virat Kohli and the Indian skipper Harmanpreet kaur is sure to become an idol herself to many.
In an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Team Female Cricket, she shared her journey from the capital to the honour of blue and a walk through her cricket and personal life.
Excerpts from the interview here:
What was your first interaction with cricket like?
I was always involved in sports. I started playing badminton and lawn tennis even before I started playing cricket. I used to go the park to play cricket with my friends. My maternal grandfather used to take us there and even used to bowl to us.
Walk us through your initial (childhood) cricket days? Any gully cricket moment that you remember?
I loved both badminton and cricket so my father made me join a cricket academy. I still remember he helped me the first time I was to pad up.
Did you play any sport other than cricket in your childhood? If yes, what made you stick to cricket?
Yes, I do play badminton as well. In cricket, batting has always fascinated me and even when I used to play with my brother, I always asked him to let me bat first.
Any siblings? Were they equally interested in Cricket?
Yes, I have a younger brother and even he is a cricket lover. Currently, he is playing for the district team of Rajasthan.
Who were your cricketing role model / inspiration whilst growing up?
I have always admired Rahul Dravid sir since my childhood and growing up, Virat Kohli has been my role model. From women’s cricket, Harmanpreet Kaur is my inspiration; her huge sixes always leave me in awe!
Why did you choose cricket back then despite knowing the challenges and the hardships one has to face throughout her career?
Challenges exist everywhere be it life or the game of cricket. These challenges can never force me to leave my dream, facing them is what one has to do. I cannot even imagine my life without cricket.
Which club and coach did you start your journey with? Which all club have you represented so far?
I used to practice at the Surana Academy in Jaipur, I practiced there for around 5-6 months and after that my dad took a transfer to New Delhi as scope of women’s cricket in Jaipur was very limited as there were not many matches arranged for us. In Delhi, I used to play a lot of cricket with the other boys. I had joined the west Delhi cricket academy where my coach was Rajkumar Sharma sir. I shifted back to Jaipur just 2-3 years back. Here, my dad has constructed his own ground where he trains me and so he is actually my personal coach!
What age did you make your domestic debut for Delhi? Were you excited with the opportunity or nervous with the expectations from you?
I was just 13 when I got selected in Delhi’s U-19 team. I was obviously very excited but kind of nervous as well because I was the youngest in the team back then.
A cricket match you played, and still remember and have enjoyed the most?
The recent match that I played against Tamil Nadu, in which I scored 143 runs and also had a great partnership of 102 runs with Reema Di. We had already taken so many singles and doubles that we were kind of tired. So when Reema Di hit a shot, we took two runs and I called for the third, so she told me “Tu bhaag le mujhse toh nahin bhaga jayega” (you take the run, I won’t be able to run anymore) at that time even the fielders and the umpires started laughing! (Laughs)
You have played for Delhi and India Red recently. You are known to be one of the promising cricketers from Delhi. How has the journey been so far? Highlight some of the high-low moments you’ve witnessed so far?
The 2014-15 Season was really good for me; I had played the challengers and had attended the senior NCA camp as well. In 2015, I debuted for India A, so after that the expectations increased. Unfortunately, after that Jaundice happened and I could not practice for 3 months due to strict bed rest. Even after I recovered from Jaundice, my thumb got fractured and even before it healed, the domestic season began. In January, I played the one day challenger when I realized I need to work more on my batting. Many of my seniors helped me with it. Soon after that, the senior T20 matches began in which I scored 35 runs off 21 balls against the Railways. During the off-season, I worked on my batting and also added the lofted shots because I felt I was too relied on my ground shots and could not hit sixes only. In the Senior T20 challenge, I scored 46 runs not out in which I had hit 4 sixes so that is a really special innings to me.
What was the feeling like when you got to know about your national selection?
I was expecting a call this time because I had performed well in the senior one day matches. The first call came from Reema Di and she congratulated me. She even spoke to me a lot in between the matches and even before the tournament which helped me a lot. When I told my dad about my selection, he got a bit emotional because we were all waiting for the call since quite some time now, everyone in the family is very happy.
How excited are your family members / relatives with the news? How did you all celebrate this good news?
All my relatives and family members are super happy. In Rajasthan the people from the district where we belong are even happier and then they keep calling to congratulate me.
You were brilliant in the Women’s Senior League 2018-19, scoring 2 double-hundreds. What keeps you going and motivates you to do better?
My two greatest motivations are my father and Reema Di. My father has always encouraged me and has always told me to play my natural game because he believes that way the runs will keep coming. Reema Di has always guided me in between matches and even before each important tournament which has been helping me a lot.
Tell us about your coaches who have helped you shape your cricket career?
I have trained under Rajkumar Sharma sir and my personal coach, my father. The sole reason behind all my success and wherever I am today is all because of my father. He has always supported me on and off the field and also my family has always been really supportive.
Do you set goals for yourself? What gets the best out of you?
Yes, I always have my goals set. At times they get fulfilled at times they do not but they are always well listed. This year, my goal was to add lofted shots to my batting and work on my power hitting skills which I could achieve in the senior one day matches. I knew that if I played well in the one day matches, I could get selected for India and then 2 centuries that I scored, gave me the desired result.
Any superstition that you follow while batting?
Yes, I wear a leg guard on my left leg!
What would be your message to your sisters aspiring to become a professional cricket player?
I would ask everyone not to give up ever and keep working hard because hard work always pays off today or tomorrow but it definitely does. And working on the fitness and skills is extremely crucial because that is what takes on forward.
When not playing cricket, what does a typical day look like for you?
One would find me watching movies on my laptop and listening to Punjabi music or playing with my dog, Bruno.
Your views on our “Female Cricket” platform?
Female cricket is doing a great job in promoting women’s cricket over the globe. The interviews that the team takes up help the fans and other spectators to know a lot about the players.
The 22 Yard stretch that molded me, is what I hold sacred. A cricketer weaving life’s innings into words. A Rohit Sharma Admirer always. I believe writing and cricket aren’t passions, but ways of life, so truly living the dream!