Life is all about making the most of your opportunities. And, sometimes an opportunity for some comes wearing clothes of adversity. Ask Team India’s new teenage sensation, Priya Punia. The latest Indian women cricket sensation, Puniya, made the most of the opportunity that she got after ace opener Smriti Mandhana was ruled out of the one-day series against the visiting South African women. The right-handed batswoman made the most of the opportunity and stroked a swashbuckling 75* in the first One-day to notch up a well-deserved Player-of-the-Match award.
But, it wasn’t all that hunky-dory for the Rajasthan-born Priya. Born in Churu, Rajasthan, Puniya got her maiden call-up to the Indian Women’s team during the national side’s tour of New Zealand, earlier this year. That call-up was a culmination of a lifelong struggle of her as well as her father.
Priya Punia’s father – An inspiration
Cricket in India or for that matter anywhere in the world has been generally a male-dominated sport. Before the likes of Mithali Raj, Ellyse Perry, Smriti Mandhana, Suzie Bates became the global icons of Women cricket, it was a herculean task for any aspiring girl to take up the sport. Girls in cricket, eh? This used to be the common rebuke that most of the aspiring women cricketers got in their formative years. Priya’s case was no different. But what really made a difference in Priya’s case was the unrelenting desire and ambition of his father, Surendra.
Driven by the unrelenting desire to fulfill the aspirations of her daughter, Surendra, who was transferred from Delhi to Jaipur as an employee of the Survey of India in 2016, went on to sell his property, acquire loans and purchase a 1.5 bigha plot of land worth Rs 22 Lakh on the outskirts of Jaipur where under a proper set of nets and pitch, he helped Priya fulfill her dreams of playing for India.
When she refused to join the academy
When Priya sought to enroll herself into the cricket academy, she was mocked by the coaches at the academy with their typical verbal diarrhea, “Ohh! You are a girl! Girl’s don’t play cricket” Disgusted by the sexist remarks, Puniya decided against joining the academy. Disgruntled by his daughter’s disappointment at being able to join the academy, Surendra approached the groundsman to set-up a pitch but he demanded Rs 1 Lakh. So, he decided to set up the 22-yard pitch himself and till now spends Rs 15,000 monthly for its mantainence, as per the Times of India.
She kept persevering despite all odds
Priya did what she could to earn a national call-up but despite good performances for Delhi and the North Zone, she was left disappointed. But, the right-hander kept on persevering. In fact, so strong was Priya’s desire 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 as quoted by the Times of India.
But, as they say, if you have that burning desire and have the support like Surendra provided to her daughter, almost everything is possible, and Priya’s case vindicates that.
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