Women’s T20 Challenge: Kiran Navgire, Maya Sonawane among uncapped players to watch out for

Kiran Navgire, Maya Sonawane and Aarti Kedar will play the Women's T20 Challenge

With a record 13 uncapped Indian players featuring in the fourth edition of the Women’s T20 Challenge in Pune from May 23 to May 28, there’ll be plenty of new names looking to impress. Here’s our pick of five players to watch out for:

Kiran Navgire (Velocity)

After her exploits in the recently-held Senior Women’s T20 Trophy, it’s hard to look past Kiran Navgire as the first name on the list. Navgire has an almost unmatched reputation for six-hitting on the domestic circuit and she lived up to that billing by smashing 35 sixes for Nagaland in the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy. For perspective, Shafali Verma, a fine hitter herself, was next best with 15.

Navgire will most likely open the batting with Shafali for Velocity and if the two of them get going, opposition bowlers will have hard task to contain arguably the two biggest hitters in the country. Captain Deepti Sharma said that the power Navgire generates is exceptional. “Kiran is a lot like Shafali. She’s a power hitter with a lot of talent. When she’s batting, you get a feeling that every ball might land in the stands.”

Maya Sonawane (Velocity)

With her unique frog in the blender/Paul Adamsesque action, Maya Sonawane is one of the trickiest spinners to face on the domestic circuit. She was a key part of the Maharashtra team that made the final of the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy and has improved her control over the last few years.

Sonawane was the fourth-highest wicket-taker in the tournament, with 11 from 8 matches and was also the only bowler in the tournament to pick up two four-wicket hauls.

It is Sonawane’s variety that makes her standout, says Deepti. “Maya has a lot of variations and sometimes even she doesn’t know what she’s bowling but her control over line and length is very good. She has a unique action and the good thing about her is that she’s always up for challenges.”

Maharashtra captain Smriti Mandhana thinks that “she has a good leg spinner as well as a wrong un. She also knows what each delivery will do now, which is something that she did not know a couple of years back. So she has developed a lot.”

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Aarti Kedar (Velocity)

The leading wicket-taker in the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy, Maharashtra’s Kedar is a left arm spinner who impressed all observers in her first full season for the team. Kedar has the ability to bowl in all phases of the innings and her being left-handed gives her an edge against most teams that are predominantly stacked with right handers.

Kedar scalped 13 wickets in just 8 games at a hugely impressive economy rate of 4.78 and an even more impressive strike rate of 12.92. Left arm spinners are usually the most difficult to get away in T20 cricket and with Rajeshwari Gayakwad being the only left arm spinner certain of a spot in the Indian team, a good display here can see Kedar make the cut for the Indian team.

“She bowls wicket-to-wicket and has very good discipline. There are very few left arm spinners in women’s cricket and the thing that stands out about her is her positivity,” says Deepti.

Mandhana said that Kedar’s ability to break partnerships and control the run rate helped Maharashtra a lot.

Shivali Shinde (Velocity)

One half of one of the most stylish opening pairs in domestic cricket, the 25-year old right hander from Maharashtra has enjoyed batting with state captain Smriti Mandhana. While she might not find herself in the playing XI rightaway here, she is a pleasing strokemaker who is rated highly by Mandhana too.

“It is so good to see the way she has grown as a batter. She is a lot more sensible now and her shot selection has also improved.”

Shinde was the third-highest run getter for Maharashtra in the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy after the experienced duo of Tejal Hasabnis and Mandhana and she’ll hope to continue that form.

Shraddha Pokharkar (Trailblazers)

Shraddha Pokharkar is a left-arm medium pacer from Maharashtra, who picked nine wickets in eight matches in the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy. Maharashtra’s spinners led their charge to the final but Pokharkar was equally impressive as their lead pacer.

“I first saw Shraddha three or four years back and even then she had a lot of potential. She is tall and hits a good length, so it is not easy to hit her. She also has a very good slower delivery, which is a very big weapon in T20 cricket,” said Mandhana.

India has been looking for a left arm pacer for a while now to add some variety to their bowling attack and with plenty of T20 action coming up, this might be as good a chance as any for Pokharkar.