WPL 2024: Meet Delhi leg-spinner Priya Mishra – aiming to put her best foot forward for Gujarat Giants

February 24, 2024
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Women’s Premier League (WPL) auction was happening in Mumbai on December 9, 2023

New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) When the 2024 Women’s Premier League (WPL) auction was happening in Mumbai on December 9, 2023, Delhi leg-spinner Priya Mishra was in the same city. However, the 19-year-old got to see the auction on the bus after wrapping up the practice session ahead of Delhi’s opening match against Gujarat in the U23 Women’s T20 Trophy.

When her name came up for auction, Priya and her teammates were gathered in the hotel room a mixture of excitement and curiosity buzzed among them, all eager to discover who would successfully rope in Priya for the tournament.

Even Priya’s mother Sudha and elder sister Kajal, who were at home in Delhi, felt that same sensation as they kept talking to her over the phone. The moment the Adani Sportsline-owned Gujarat Giants secured Priya for INR 20 lakh; the atmosphere turned electric. Joyful celebrations and tears of happiness ensued, as the young leg-spinner grasped the reality of joining WPL 2024.

“So, when my name came up for the first time, I felt very happy and after Gujarat Giants took me in, I became very emotional and felt ‘finally I am going to be here’. My mother and sister were very happy and said, ‘You did it, now think of what will happen next and do well in the tournament’,” recalls Priya in an exclusive conversation with IANS, facilitated by the franchise.

In the U23 T20 tournament, Priya eventually took ten wickets in eight matches at an average of 16.70 and an economy rate of 5.38 as Delhi secured a runner-up finish. Before this, she picked eight wickets in six games with an economy rate of 6.34 and an average of 18.25 in the senior women’s T20 trophy.

Growing up in Karol Bagh, Priya’s love for cricket blossomed as she played with her friends on the streets and in the park. Her journey into the world of serious cricket began when she enrolled at Salwan Girls School, Rajinder Nagar, in the seventh grade.

“There was a teacher named Pooja Chandra mam, who would teach cricket. It was she who asked me to bring my father to school as I wanted to play cricket. They then went to the coach, Shravan sir, and I took up playing cricket at the school after being explained a lot by him.”

“If not for Pooja mam, I don’t think I would have played cricket professionally. I am always talking to Shravan sir, including on the days I didn’t bowl well. On days, when I perform well, he says, ‘it’s been three and four wickets you have taken in the match, think now about performing well in the future’. He scolds, but explains well too.”

At first, Priya focused on medium-pace bowling for about three to four months, but after receiving advice from Shravan sir, she switched to leg spin. “He said to stop bowling medium-pace as I didn’t have the height for it and wasn’t able to bowl at the desired speed. He then suggested me to bowl leg-spin.”

“From then, it’s been no looking back for me as a leg-spinner. At that time, when I began, the leg-spin wouldn’t happen. In medium-pace, my landing was rough. But then, I put in the hard yards to learn bowling leg-spin.”

Priya, like any aspiring leg-spinner, idolised the legendary Shane Warne and was captivated by his ability to spin the ball. In the modern era, she admires Yuzvendra Chahal for his bowling action and Rashid Khan for his impeccable accuracy in line and length.

“Turn is the most beautiful thing about leg-spin bowling. I like turn in speed, but don’t prefer much of flight. I prefer to make the batter play forward due to turn and then get the ball to turn past her. If you are bowling four leg-spin deliveries in an over, then the remaining two balls will be googly. In googly, the line and length will go here and there, but I always try to get it to turn from outside the off-stump.”

Support from the family has been immense in Priya’s cricketing journey. Whenever she had matches or camps at the Feroz Shah Kotla, her parents, Sudha and Sandeep, would make sure to drop her off and pick her up without fail. During Sandeep’s office hours, Sudha would take on ensuring Priya reached the stadium on schedule. This arrangement continued for 1.5 years until Priya started going to Kotla alone.

“My father has been very supportive of me playing cricket, saying ‘You are just not my daughter, you are like my son’. My sister urged me by saying, ‘You take up cricket and you can do well in it’. My mother was also after me by saying, ‘You have to play cricket and be at it’. No one told me to pursue studies, as everyone talked about me taking up cricket.”

“My brother’s (Arpit) favourite sport is cricket, while my sister watches a little bit of it. But when my matches are on, she watches them. If I get a scalp, she becomes very elated and informs everyone by shouting ‘My sister has taken a wicket’.

The realization that cricket could be a potential career for Priya dawned upon her following a U19 match. “In that game, my team wasn’t getting wickets. I came in to bowl three overs and got six wickets. I had the best time of my life while bowling that spell and that gave me a feeling that I can do something in cricket.”

After the U23 Women’s T20 tournament, Priya emerged as the leading wicket-taker in the Senior Women’s One-day trophy with 23 scalps in eight games at an average of 9.86 and an economy rate of 3.86. Priya received the Player of the Tournament award, despite Delhi’s loss to Railways in the semifinals.

“I wasn’t there to receive the award as we got out before reaching the final. I came back home and was going out for some work, when one of my friends, Simran Didi, called me to say I got the Player of the Tournament award. I was very happy about it and the talk with her was about doing well in the coming games.”

So far, Priya has had a fantastic experience with the Giants, receiving support from the entire team during match simulations, especially from bowling coach Nooshin Al Khadeer and mentor-advisor Mithali Raj.

“Nooshin mam has made me go through many drills in terms of spin-bowling and explains things very well. She would point out an area and say ‘This is your spot and you don’t need to see who’s the batter in front. You just need to bowl your ball’. Mithali mam is also great at explaining what to do when you bowl too much short or full in the lengths.”

“When match-based stimulations happen in practice, the thing which comes to the mind is to approach it in the way you are playing a match. Like, they tell you to save certain runs in an over and imagine if the batter is on a hitting rampage. It then becomes like you must nail your deliveries and take it in a way that an actual match is happening.”

The experience of playing in WPL 2024 will bring its own set of pressures for Priya, particularly performing in front of a huge crowd and being watched by national selectors for future national team opportunities. However, the young leg-spinner is fully prepared and eager to embrace the WPL 2024 experience.

“With WPL games happening later in Delhi, my entire family and friends will come to the stadium to watch the matches. For dealing with the pressure related to the crowd factor, I have it in my mind that I don’t want to see or hear who’s saying what or who’s doing the most shouting from the stands.”

“I just see what I have done from start to now and the expectation I have from myself is that put my best foot forward for the team whenever I get the chance and get as many wickets as possible, as the side will look at me to get scalps and stop the run-flow. So, I must do that and make the team champions.”

–IANS/nr/bsk/

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