Conversations with friends: How Harris helped unlock Navgire's beast mode

The birthday twins, the big hitters and the role players... The behind-the-scenes story of how Grace Harris and positive affirmations helped unlock the power of Kiran Navgire
"You are not a bad player, you just played a bad shot. There is a difference," Harris made it simple for Navgire.
"You are not a bad player, you just played a bad shot. There is a difference," Harris made it simple for Navgire.Photo | Vinod Kumar T, EPS

CHENNAI : In the first-ever game for the UP Warriorz in the Women's Premier League, the cricketing world witnessed something special. While chasing 170 for the win against the Gujarat Giant, UP lost a few early wickets, but Kiran Navgire kept them in the contest with a half-century.

And just as it looked like UP were back in the game, Navgire fell. With 82 runs needed in 42 balls, DY Patil Stadium witnessed the Grace Harris Storm as the Australian turned the tide with an unbeaten 59 runs off just 26 balls to take UP home. "I was gobsmacked that day," Navgire still has goosebumps remembering that day.

"When we came back to the hotel from that game, I asked her if I could have 15 minutes of her time. I wanted to know what was going through her head when she was batting and how, on earth, she managed that chase. We spoke a lot that day. She told me how she did it. How did she read those conditions to make her game work? How she planned it. She told me that if there is a good ball, you have to respect it and take a single. If you are at the crease, you should aim to finish the match with a calm head. If I hadn't talked with her that day, maybe I would have never learned it. It became part of my thinking process," said Navgire, who got candid speaking about the conversation.

"One cannot hit six every ball, but we can at least take a single, right? I also learned that one has to make use of the fielding whenever possible. I knew all of this before, I re-learned it all through experience once again. I feel the Australian players are quite different in the way they think about the game. In my experience, they are willing to help everyone. Once I realised that, I tried to spend as much time with Grace and Tahlia McGrath as I could. Whatever I could learn with them, and I tried to implement those learnings in my off-season training," she added.  

The Maharashtra batter worked on everything she learned in the first season to truly make it part of her routine in the off-season and her coach witnessed these changes up and close.

"Before the season, most of her practice included the ones with match scenarios. She worked on the mental side of the game as well, where she could make the most of her opportunity," Gulzar Shaikh, Navgire's long-time coach, told this daily.

So when the opportunity came to set a foundation for UP against the defending champions, Mumbai Indians, Navgire took it with both hands.

The second ball she faced, Navgire smashed it over the bowler's head to announce herself. When Issy Wong was introduced, Navgire welcomed her with four boundaries. Hayley Matthews, Amelia Kerr, Saika Ishaque; nobody was spared. By the time she got out, she had put UP in a commanding position to register their first win.

"After the first two matches, she wasn't happy with her performance and admitted that there were a few mistakes. I was glad that she didn't make those same mistakes. She respected the good balls and whacked the ones when it was needed," said Shaikh, who sounded happy with his ward.

And Harris was probably the happiest person at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Wednesday. "That’s the best I've seen Kiran hit," she told broadcasters after UP registered their first win of the season by seven wickets. After all, she has witnessed the game transformation up and close.

"Kiran is a very talented player. I have enjoyed working with her. When we first met, I had a little bit of a language problem, but I am trying to learn Hindi," Harris told this daily before the start of the season.

"I just tried to simplify her game a little bit and make sure she was playing the type of T20 cricket that was impactful and to get the best out of her skill set. She is a powerful hitter. No doubt about that. I just told her if you have to hit powerfully, you still have to get in line with the ball. Little conversations like that can drastically change the way you train or how you think about the game," Harris added.

One can sense why Navgire rated the conversations with Harris so highly.

"Instead of getting too emotional about getting out, break down your wickets tactically or look at things from a technical point of view. Sometimes players miss and they might lean into thinking, 'I cannot do this or I am a bad player because I got out three times playing a shot.' But you are not a bad player; you just played a bad shot. There is a difference," said the Australian.

With positive affirmations like that from someone who has done a similar job and a clear message from her captain and the opening partner, Navgire went to work. "Alyssa Healy (captain) told me that I can take my time in the game. She said you have the strength to go for it later in the game as well. Just take your time and play with the merit of the ball. So the plan was simple for me," Navgire told the media after the match.

The story that started with Harris finishing the match in the first season in Navi Mumbai, saw a similar result with the Australian all-rounder finishing the match with 38 runs off just 17 balls in Bengaluru.

It was fitting that, this time, Navgire had already done the bulk of the work.

Just like Grace told her.

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