Indian woman cricketer Priya Punia is one of the most exciting talents in female cricket right now. The 24-year-old might only be a youngster but her story is nothing short of inspirational. From breaking all the myths and barriers with her self-belief and confidence, the story of Priya demonstrates the wonders that the girls of this country can do if they get the desired support from their family.
The journey began with a dream
Priya Punia hails from a middle-class family in Jaipur, Rajasthan. While her father worked as head clerk in the Indian Survey Department, her mother was a housewife. The young girl was always into sports, having developed an affinity for badminton in her childhood. However, she started developing an interest in cricket and this is where the dream began.
Her father Surender Punia, who himself was a keen cricket lover, wanted to leave no stones unturned for her daughter's preparations. Seeing the potential, he got Priya to train under coach Rajkumar Sharma (former trainer of Virat Kohli), where the budding cricketer worked on her game for seven years. Priya was getting an opportunity to play some tournaments and everything was going well for her until 2016 when things started to derail.
Hopes started to diminish but the young girl didn't quit
Priya's father got transferred to Jaipur and the 20-year-old girl had to move back to Rajasthan. On arrival, she was struck by jaundice and just three months later, she suffered a fractured thumb. When she tried to enroll in a cricket academy, the youngster was also mocked by the coaches for being a girl and playing cricket. It looked like the dream was coming to an unfortunate end for young Priya.
Despite everything falling out of place, the budding cricketer was just not ready to call it quits. Looking at the determination of Priya, her father took it upon himself to ensure that nothing stops the young girl from making it big. He sold his property, acquired loans and bought a 1-acre plot of land worth Rs. 22 lakh in the outskirts of Jaipur to build a proper practice net and pitch for his daughter. This is how Priya's journey came to track once again.
Notably, Priya had also received an offer from an assistant of highly ranked BCCI official, who had told her to lend a helping hand in getting into the Indian team. However, the young girl had so much belief in herself that she refused the offer and was quoted, "There is no satisfaction in getting into the team on a recommendation."
Consistency reaped rewards but the challenges never stopped
The right-handed batter started to come into the limelight with her impressive performances in various tournaments. In the 2018 One Day Championship in Bengaluru, Priya smashed 407 runs in 8 matches at an average of 50 and started knocking the doors for selection in the national side. She got the call-up to play for India in T20I series against New Zealand but could only score 9 runs in 3 games.
It was a disappointing start for Priya to her international career but that had been her story since childhood. Nothing came easy for the girl but she always knew how to come back in style. She finally got another opportunity whe she received her ODI cap on October 9, 2019 against South Africa.
Justice for all the hard work, a dream ODI debut for Priya
For all the hard work that was put on by her, Priya finally justified all the sacrifices made by her family by making them proud. The right-handed batter announced her arrival to ODI cricket in style as she smashed a match-winning knock (75* of 125 balls) to guide her side to a brilliant victory against the Proteas. Watch here
"Dreams do come true if you keep believing in yourself. Anything is possible. I'm thankful to everyone who always supported me, especially my father, who is always there for me no matter what. And I dedicate this inning to my grandfather, who passed away on 10th oct 2008, this is for you Dada Ji," stated Priya in a heartwarming post on Instagram after her knock.
A huge loss for Priya Punia
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult one for everyone in the world and it was no different for Priya. The Indian cricketer, unfortunately, lost her mother, late Saroj Punia who succumbed to the deadly virus at the Sawai Mansingh Hospital in Jaipur late on Monday. The 24-year-old penned down an emotional post for her mother who had always taught her to remain strong.
National duty comes first for the Indian batter
Despite Priya and her family facing the most difficult times of their lives, the 24-year-old decided to leave for Mumbai where Team India has to assemble on May 19 for the upcoming tour of England. Priya admitted that it is important to stay strong in these times and as her mother always wanted her success, she decided to go ahead with the tour and make her mom happy.
“My mother always wanted me to play for the country and she was really excited with my selection to the Indian team for the England tour. So, I will travel to Mumbai from Jaipur (on Wednesday) and go into quarantine. These are tough times for sure, but my mom always wanted me to focus on my game, and I will do that even now,” the 24-year-old told Sportstar. The Braveheart stated that her mom always wanted her to concentrate on her job while representing her country and that's what she will do now.
While Priya's late mother would be extremely proud of the strength she has given to her daughter, the Indian batter would have the blessings of her family and the entire nation to make everyone proud in England. The girl is an inspiration for all of us as she actually defines the famous saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."