Meet Sajeevan Sajana: Daughter of an Auto-rickshaw driver who hit a last-ball Six on her WPL debut for Mumbai Indians

Sajeevan Sajana has been the headline of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) after winning Mumbai Indians a game out of nowhere.
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Sajana’s life story has been similar to this game - finding a way to navigate the adversities and impress everyone with your character.

Sajeevan Sajana has been the headline of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) after winning Mumbai Indians a game out of nowhere. With five needed off the final delivery, Sajana hit a magnificent six over long-on to hand Delhi Capitals a shocking defeat.

Sajana’s life story has been similar to this game - finding a way to navigate the adversities and impress everyone with your character. In an interview with Female Cricket, Sajana opened up about her early struggles and cricketing career.

Sajana, an all-rounder who bats right-handed and can also bowl useful off-spin, belongs to an Adivasi Tribe of the Kurichia community in Kerala, whose father is an auto-driver and mother a homemaker. Sajana always had an interest in sports, and she used to be the only girl playing with her village boys.

While her extended family didn’t support her, Sajana was never stopped by her parents and got their full backing. Initially, she played with plastic balls but made rapid progress to competitive cricket.

Sajana went to a residential school but had a hard time surviving and used to cry for hours while sitting alone. But she didn’t crumble and convert her adversities into opportunities by making herself determined and strong.

While staying in the hostel, Sajana was involved in various sports curricula, including kho-kho, basketball, high jump, long jump and javelin throw. Her physical education teacher, Elsamma Baby, guided her through the KCA selection process, and while Sajana didn’t get selected in the first trial, she was picked in the following trial, and she decided to make cricket her ultimate goal.

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The unavailability of one of Kerala’s senior players paved the way for Sajana, and she made her domestic debut for Kerala against Hyderabad in the 2013/14 season. The 23-year-old has been a regular in the team since then and also was KCA’s Player of the Year in 2015 and 2017.

In 2016, Sajana came as a substitute fielder for Gautam Gambhir in one of the tournaments, with the current Indian coach Rahul Dravid in the stands. She impressed everyone with her fielding, and Gambhir gave his signed bat to Sajana, with whom she played some crucial knocks going forward, including hitting the fastest century in a UR3 Interstate match.

Under his leadership, Kerala won the T20 Super League title in 2018, and Sajana starred with the willow in the final, showing his true potential. Chasing a tricky 115-run target, Kerala lost four wickets in 50 runs by the end of the 12th over.

However, Sajana played a rescue knock and kept her team within the chase till the last over by showing cricketing smarts. The 29-year-old hit the winning runs and created history to take Kerala to its first major title.

When things seemed going smoothly for Sajana, life presented another massive setback. She was selected for the Challengers Trophy, where she was set to represent the India Red team, but a devastating flood damaged most of her house.

She was struck in her home, surrounded by water and thought she would miss such crucial games. However, a police boat came to rescue her and her family, and it helped Sajana to move out to Bangalore and feature in the series.

“I was worried about my matches. I thought that in such a situation, I would not be able to get out from it. I am going to lose my matches. So many things were going into my mind, and at the same time, my house was surrounded by water. Not only me but my neighbours were also trying to escape from that. Finally, a police boat came for us. First, I kept my cricket kit safely, and then my kit bag. I carried my clothes as well. So, I was able to reach Bangalore for the Challengers trophy, but mentally, I was not fit because my home situation was very bad. My home, my parents etc. So, I really struggled to concentrate. In the evening, my parents used to call me and narrate the scenes back home. My teammates helped me a lot to overcome the tense situation.”

Sajana has been working hard on her game consistently. Harmanpreet Kaur revealed that she was hitting big in the nets, paving the way for her WPL debut.

"She (Sajana) was smacking sixes during the practice session and she showed us tonight. We were looking to finish the game in the first 3 balls but we know we have depth in our batting, because of Sajana I'm standing here."

While Sajana is yet to make her India debut, the second edition of WPL can be a breakthrough season for her. India need a lower-order hard-hitter who can chip in with a few overs, and Sajana fits perfectly.

Life has thrown different challenges to Sajeevan Sajana at every step, and she has overcome all obstacles. She has started her WPL career on a high note as well, and undoubtedly, her India debut is not too far, either.

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