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HomeNewsPressure not a problem for Kanika Ahuja, 20-year-old RCB winner

Pressure not a problem for Kanika Ahuja, 20-year-old RCB winner


“Mere dimaag main bas yeh chal raha that ki mujhe match jeetna hain. (The only thing on my mind was that I wanted to win this match.) It feels normal for me (playing against the big names), I don’t feel pressure.”

There was a dazzling smile on a 20-year-old. Kanika Ahujaface when he entered the press conference room after turning on Royal Challengers Bangalore to their first win in it Women’s Premier League. She spoke with confidence, about talking to Virat Kohli and trying to imitate Suryakumar Yadav’s 360-degree shots.

It was his first press conference, Ahuja said later, but why should there be any nerves? He had just stepped up and done what no veteran on his team had done: handle the pressure and get those first points. Ahuja’s 46 of 30 balls is the highest score by an uncapped player in the WPL so far, and it came at a pivotal moment: in a match he must win after five straight losses.

Royal Challengers were chasing just 136 but had lost their big three, Smriti Mandhana, Sophie Devine and Ellyse Perry, when Ahuja started her inning in the seventh. Heather Knight was sacked soon after, with Royal Challengers needing 76 off 66 balls and in the midst of an all-too-familiar batting crisis.

How does Ahuja respond? Sticking to your game, finding the limit and keeping the demand rate in check. “The target was small, so I had a chance to take my time and play, that’s what I did,” she said. “I waited for the fumbles and the only thing on my mind was that we have to win.”

The Australian all-rounder from UP Warriorz grace harris he said that Ahuja had played smart tackles. “He played the conditions and the bowlers very well,” said Harris. “She saw rhythm a couple of times and she brought us up (she picked her up), I thought that was very smart. She has a good bat swing and as a lefty, she can get under the ball.”

Ahuja had already shown glimpses of his potential in the match. against the Mumbai Indians, where he scored 22 of 13 balls. “Everyone told me that my intention was good, but that I can do better. I was sorry that I had the opportunity and left early.” Against the Warriorz, he missed a half-century by four runs, but he didn’t regret it; His team had finally won and that was all that mattered for now.

Ahuja dedicated the moment to her mother, her greatest support. “There was a time when my mother would push me to play. Now, she is not physically well and I am playing here for her, playing because she is watching me.”

Cricket was initially a way for her mother to get Ahuja out of the house as a child, but it soon meant more and it was her mother who supported this decision.

“I used to go mainly because my mom told me to go outside and play and not to bother her at home. If she was home, she would fly kites on the roof so she would push me to go outside and play,” Ahuja said with a laugh. “My family didn’t even know there was cricket for girls… My father told me to focus on my studies because there is nothing in cricket, but my mother said go play.”

That initial drive to play and continued support brought Ahuja to DY Patil Stadium, where thousands of fans chanted his name on Wednesday night. “I was enjoying it, it felt really good hearing ‘Kanika, Kanika’. It’s every gamer’s dream to have people root for them, it didn’t feel like pressure at all.”

Ahuja is known for her heavy hitting abilities. In September, she scored 305 not out on 122 balls for Patiala in the Punjab one-day inter-district senior women’s tournament. But doing it in her home state is different from nailing her shots in the WPL, regardless of the size of the caps.

But then again, what’s the pressure for someone that cool? “Virat sir said it’s not pressure, it’s pleasure.”

Kohli had met with the Royal Challengers women’s team on the morning of their match against the Warriorz. “He motivated us, some of his words stuck with me and helped me,” Ahuja said. “When you’re playing, don’t take it as pressure, it’s a pleasure that you’re playing. Some people don’t get the chance.”

Kohli is not the only Indian male cricketer Ahuja looks to for inspiration. You can see part of Suryakumar’s 360 degree range in his punching game. She also has an infectious energy on the field, as evidenced by Devine literally picking her up after catching her.

A left-handed power hitter who also bowls, Ahuja is a prospect for the future, and the WPL is a platform built for players like her. Despite their poor results this season, Royal Challengers has the system to be a finishing school for the likes of Ahuja and Shreyanka Patil, who scored the winning runs against the Warriorz. “This is a great experience as a national player to play against international players,” Ahuja said. “If we prepare now, it will help the Indian team move forward.”

Playing for India is his ultimate dream and Ahuja is on his way to achieve it.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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