The Indian women’s cricket team has a new swashbuckling batsman in its rank.
Earlier this month, 22-year-old Priya Punia, a native of Churu, Rajasthan, was called up to the Indian women’s T-20 squad touring New Zealand.
This call-up is a culmination of a lifelong struggle, which saw her father Surendra sell his property, acquire loans, and purchase a 1.5-bigha plot of land worth Rs 22 lakh in the outskirts of Jaipur, where under a proper set of nets and pitch, he helped Priya fulfil her dreams of playing for India.
Surendra’s decision to construct a pitch for his daughter came after a rather bitter experience when he was transferred from Delhi to Jaipur as an employee of this Survey of India in 2016.
When Priya sought to enrol at a cricket academy in Jaipur, the coach there mocked her for being a girl and harbouring dreams of making it in the sport. Hurt by such disrespect, Priya refused to join the academy.
This incident happened during a time when Priya was on the cusp of breaking into the Indian women’s team. In fact, a year earlier, after a string of good performances for Delhi, North Zone and a practice match against a visiting New Zealand side, she expected an India call-up.
Despite the disappointment of not receiving it, she kept persevering.
Responding to his daughter’s ambition, Surendra first approached a groundsman to set up a pitch, but he demanded Rs 1 lakh. So, he decided to set up the pitch himself and today spends Rs 15,000 monthly for its upkeep, according to the Times of India.
Priya was so determined to make it on her own that she even refused an opportunity from an aide of a high-ranking BCCI official who said he could help her find a place in the team.
“The issue was decided by Priya herself. When I informed her about the offer, she said if I got her into the Indian Women’s Cricket Team through the back door, she would opt out,” says Surendra, speaking to the Times of India.
However, the 22-year-old’s struggles weren’t merely limited to practice facilities or selection. On arriving in Jaipur, she was struck by jaundice and only three months later, she suffered a fractured thumb. When her faith began to waiver, Surendra stepped up as both mentor and coach.
Evidently, Priya’s hard work and Surendra’s faith in her dream has finally paid off.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)