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Match Analysis

Navgire flexes her muscles against Mumbai Indians once again

With Vrinda Dinesh injured, she opened the innings on Wednesday and smashed 57 off 31 to script UP Warriorz's first win of the season

Ashish Pant
29-Feb-2024
Kiran Navgire went big from the word go  •  BCCI

Kiran Navgire went big from the word go  •  BCCI

There is something about Mumbai Indians that gets Kiran Navgire up and about. Maybe it's the Punekar in her wanting to go one-up against a Mumbai side. Maybe it's the extra motivation to prove herself against a top-quality bowling attack. But Navgire seems to have something extra in the tank when facing Mumbai in the WPL.
She was the only bright spark for UP Warriorz in the WPL 2023 Eliminator against Mumbai, striking a powerful 27-ball 43 even as the other batters surrendered meekly. In an earlier group game that season, she had struck two fours and a six in a quick 14-ball 17. So when Warriorz faced Mumbai again, on Wednesday, Navgire cut loose.
Having batted in the middle order in the first two games of WPL 2024 without much success, Navgire was given a chance to open the batting in this game. She took the opportunity head-on smashing a 31-ball 57 with six fours and four sixes to set up the platform for a chase of 162 and the first win of the season for her side.
For all her heroics, Navgire's promotion to the top of the order might not have happened if not for an injury to Vrinda Dinesh. Vrinda, who had opened the batting in the first two games, hurt her shoulder while attempting to save a boundary at fine leg in the 14th over of the Mumbai innings and was immediately taken off. That meant Navgire, who had batted at No. 6 in the previous two games, was asked to open.
It was a position right in Navgire's wheelhouse. It was as an opener back in the 2021-22 Senior Women's T20 when she first shot into the limelight as a guest player for Nagaland, breaking records for fun. She regularly opens the batting for her state Maharashtra. Even for Warriorz last season, she batted at No. 3 for a chunk of the games.
"When the innings ended the head coach [Jon Lewis] came up to me and said I had to open. I was happy, because I open the batting in domestic cricket, and I had the chance to do that here," Navgire said after Wednesday's game. "I just played the ball on merit, played my natural game. If the ball is in my arc, it should go into the stands - that is my natural thought."
And over the ropes the ball went. Four times. Each hit making a dent at Mumbai's chance to go to the top of the points table. Each hit taking Warriorz closer to their first win of the season.
Navgire looked switched on from the get-go. She started her boundary counter by going straight over Saika Ishaque's head off the second ball she faced. Then came an Issy Wong over, one that truly got Navgire into the groove. The first ball, back of a length, was smacked to short midwicket on the bounce, but the fielder failed to stop it and it raced away on the M Chinnaswamy outfield. Wong then went full twice, and was lofted both times over the infield. Then came another short ball and Navgire hammered it past midwicket to make it four fours in five balls.
Even as Nat Sciver-Brunt - filling in as captain for the injured Harmapreet Kaur - rung in the changes, the carnage did not stop. Alyssa Healy also joined in on the fun as Warriorz raced to 61 for 0 after six overs - the highest powerplay score of the season.
It didn't take Navgire long to reach her fifty, getting to the mark off just 25 balls with a big six over deep midwicket. By the time she fell in the tenth over, the required rate for Warriorz had dropped to 6.3 from the original asking rate of 8.1. Grace Harris then continued the charge and Warriorz romped home by seven wickets and with 21 balls to spare.
Navgire's onslaught took Mumbai by surprise as they hadn't quite planned for her at the top of the order. "I don't think Navgire was going to open," Mumbai head coach Charlotte Edwards said after the game. "I think the injury [to Vrinda] gave them a licence to put her up the order. We completely weren't planning for her opening the batting. She played brilliantly tonight and kind of took the game away from us in that period she batted. We never quite recovered."
This innings was even more crucial for Navgire considering she did not have a great WPL 2023. She had an even poor Senior Women's T20 with 88 runs in six innings. The pressure was firmly on her after two more failures this WPL season, but Navgire stood tall.
At no point did her innings feel like a slog-fest. There was assuredness in her footwork while bashing the spinners. Even while tackling the fast bowlers, she made use of the crease and found the gaps.
But had Vrinda not been injured, would Navgire have still opened? "Probably not," Healy said at the post-match presentation. "Things happen for a reason. She's made a strong case moving forward as to why she should be doing it."
When in full flow, there are not many in Indian cricket who hit the ball as cleanly and as long as Navgire. The one thing lacking in her game is consistency. A half-century is a start, but what she would dearly hope for is to turn the rest of the season into a bumper one. Power-hitters in the women's game are a rare breed and if she can find momentum, Warriorz could prove to be a tough team to beat.

Ashish Pant is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo