From winning medals and trophies in athletics to becoming the first Indian to cross the 150-run mark in a domestic T20 tournament, Kiran Prabhu Navgire has indeed come a long way. After investing half of her impressionable age in javelin throw, shot put and running relays, Kiran switched to cricket only in 2016. Since then, she has been on a roll and has not only hit dozens of sixes but also hit many headlines of newspapers thanks to her batting blitzkrieg.
Female Cricket got in touch with this exciting cricketer from Maharashtra who is currently playing for Nagaland in the senior women’s T20 league to know more about her journey so far and her future goals.
Tell us about your early days in Solapur.
I was born and brought up in Solapur (a city in the state of Maharashtra). I am supported by my father, who is a farmer, and mother, who is a happy home-maker. We are three siblings, with me being in the middle of two brothers.
I spent all my childhood in Solapur. I completed my schooling from Shree Chandrashekhar Vidyalaya in Sripur, which is a small village in Solapur. The school was seven kilometers away from my home and every day I used to cycle 14 kms to and fro. I think that helped me build my stamina.
Since my school days, I have been into athletics. I participated in javelin throw, running events, shot put and almost all the other sports. Back then I was the fastest runner in the school. I represented my school in athletics at the taluka level and then at the state level. After losing in the javelin throw at the state level in 2008, I came back strong and won at the state level in 2009. In 2010, I reached the nationals. I played at the national level for two years; 2010 and 2011.
What did you do next after completing your schooling?
After my schooling, Savita Vora, a social worker, who knew my family, advised me to go to Baramati for further studies.
She confirmed that the people whom she knew in Baramati would take care of my education, accommodation, and sports. During that time, I was totally involved in athletics. I won many medals and trophies at the state and all India levels in U17 and U19 age group competitions. I completed my junior college as well as BA in Hindi from Baramati. During my graduation, I got the chance of playing cricket for Pune University. I played University Cricket for two years (2013-15) and that was actually the first time I played professional cricket. Prior to that, I had just played a bit of cricket with boys in my backyard. In the same period, I also represented Pune University in athletics (javelin throw, shot put and 100m race).
Since you were doing well in both cricket and athletics, when did you choose to go ahead with cricket over athletics?
Once I completed my graduation from Baramati, I moved to Ahmednagar to pursue BPEd. Meanwhile, I was doing cricket coaching to meet both ends. Gulzar sir in my college knew about my cricket. He took me to Azam Campus in Pune where there was an invitational cricket tournament. Teams from across India participated in this competition. It was a beautiful campus. I played one match there and scored 30 odd runs.
At that time, Bhujbal sir who was a part of the Pune District Cricket Association (PDCA) was present and he saw me bat. Later he invited me to play other invitational tournaments. I was paid a match fee of Rs. 500 and all my food and accommodation expenses were taken care of by him. In 2017, I featured in one such invitational tournament in Baramati where I scored 139 not out off 59 balls in a T20 batting at number three. I scored 409 runs in four matches in that tournament. My performance garnered attention from PDCA.
After that as per PDCA’s suggestions, I went for Maharashtra state team selection trials in Shirpur. In the selection trial match, I scored 20 odd runs and was not picked.
After not getting selected for Maharashtra, how did you motivate yourself to play cricket?
I met Jonty Gilbile sir in 2017, during the PDCA Shinde League that was played at Law College in Pune. In one of the matches, I scored 139 not out. Jonty sir, who had got his team to the tournament, was there during that match. He came up to me and asked me about my cricketing whereabouts. After getting to know my side of the story, he shared his feeling of coaching me. He realized my potential and was willing to help me in every possible way. He himself wanted to play Ranji but due to some problems, he could not realize his dream. Sir thought that may be through me he could realize his dream of playing Ranji. So he dedicated his time and effort towards making me a better cricketer.
Every day he traveled from Khopoli to Pune to coach me. Since he knew about my humble financial background, he did not charge a single penny from me. I was his only student at Azam Campus. Every day, he started from his home at around 4 am and reached Pune by 7 am. We practiced till 4pm. I used to start my day early too. Till the time Jonty sir arrived at the Campus, I used to work on my fitness and other basic skills.
He had given me a target of six months to break into the Maharashtra team. We started training on July 7, 2017 and on December 24, 2017, I was selected to play for the state team. I missed a couple of matches due to some administrative issues however I made my domestic debut later in the one-day tournament against the Indian Railways.
At present, Jonty sir continues to play club-level cricket and has his coaching academy in Khopoli where he trains boys U14 and U17.
Can you share your experience of making your domestic debut against the Indian Railways?
I was very happy to have made my debut against a champion side like the Indian Railways, which boasts of former as well as current Indian players. I scored 40 odd runs in that match. I also hit a six to Rajeshwari Gayakwad which went out of the ground. After that shot, she came up to me and appreciated my hit. Also after the match, I got a chance to meet Mithali Raj. She shared a few encouraging words with me.
After the one-day tournament, we had the T20s. However, I did not get too many chances, as we had a strong team already in place. I remember playing in one match against Saurashtra when I scored 41 not out off 21 balls.
When did you decide to move from Maharashtra to Nagaland?
I played for a couple of years for Maharashtra till COVID-19 took a toll on everything. After almost a two-year hiatus when cricket resumed, I was not selected for Maharashtra in 2021. However, that didn’t deter me. I was determined to play cricket at the highest level.
Through one of my friends, I came to know that Nagaland was looking for guest players. I applied for that and got through.
Just before the ongoing senior women’s T20 league, we had a one-month training camp in Nagaland.
Last year, I also played a one-day tournament for Nagaland. I scored 180 runs and picked up 12 wickets.
Over the last few years, you have got the chance to play plenty of cricket. Which is that one memorable match that you would like to share with us from the past?
On February 3, 2021, on the eve of Sharad Pawar’s birthday (December 12), there was an invitational women’s cricket tournament at Ambedkar Stadium in Baramati. In one of the matches in that competition, representing Azam Campus, I scored 209 not out off 84 balls. I hit 23 boundaries and 16 sixes. We posted 2-267 in 20 overs against BTCA and won the match by 176 runs.
Apart from this, in one of the other invitational matches that was played in Madhya Pradesh, representing Maharashtra 11x, I scored 156 in 64 balls, including 12 boundaries and 15 sixes. We scored 4-242 in 20 overs against Sharda XI (UBCA) and won the match by 136 runs.
Who is your role model?
I have always looked up to MS Dhoni. I love the way he stays cool and hits those big sixes. I am inspired by him and I look to do the same when I am playing. I wish to meet him one day. Usually, batters get confidence by taking singles, for me, if I hit a six early in my innings, I am sure of getting a big score.
What are your future plans?
I want to play for India in the near future and my dream is to win the World Cup for India.
How has cricket changed in Solapur?
Women’s cricket was not that popular in Solapur when I started playing. However, things are changing now. Many girls are taking up cricket. Some of them even called me to understand how they can pursue cricket professionally. I am happy that girls in my hometown are considering cricket as a serious career option.
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I am a former cricketer having represented Mumbai University at All India University level. I was a part of MCA probables for the U-19 and U-23 age group. I have been an avid cricket writer for the last five years. Currently I am pursuing my Ph.D from IIT Bombay.