Because of her, a lot of girls are taking up cricket: Coach on Poonam Yadav’s impact
It was hardly ideal preparation for a global tournament, leaving alone facing the odds-on favourites first up. Poonam Yadav, India’s diminutive leg-spinner had missed almost 40 days of preparation following a fracture in the bowling finger.
To add to the challenge at the Sydney Showground, India were defending a modest target of 132 in their opening match against Australia in the Women’s T20 World Cup on Friday. The defending champions threatened to make light of the chase with Alyssa Healy swatting the ball.
It was then that the leggie from Agra struck to send Healy back. Thereafter, there was no stopping PY, as she is called by teammates, as she bowled with great control to take three more quick wickets, setting up an upset win over the six-time champions.
“Poonam was mighty upset when she got injured and had to miss the T20 Challengers Trophy and then the Tri-series. However, she was determined to keep her calm and prepare for the World Cup while being in Australia with the team during the Tri-series. She would train hard and use her non-bowling arm a lot while on rehab. Thankfully, she started bowling in the nets ahead of the World Cup. Everyone was happy to see Poonam bowl against West Indies in the warm-up game,” her personal coach Manoj Khushwa said on phone from Agra.
Yadav required minor surgery in Mumbai for the fracture before the Tri-series. However, coach WV Raman and bowling coach Narendra Hirwani, the former India leg-spinner, reposed faith in the 28-year-old. She gave a match-winning performance against West Indies in the warm-up game by taking three wickets.
“She was really thrilled to bowl like that against the West Indies and get back to cricket. She loves the T20 format. She plans the quota of four overs during a T20 match meticulously. She uses her variations in various situations with effect. Her googlies are her main weapon. People will see more such great performances from Poonam in the upcoming matches. After her first over, she bowled slower and deceived the batters in the air. Because of her, a lot of girls are taking up cricket, especially spin, at my academy,” said Khushwa.
The turnaround in Yadav’s career came after she started bowling googlies at the 2017 World Cup. Having picked 72 wickets from 46 ODIs and 89 from 63 T20 games, Yadav has been phenomenal in the last two years for India. She was given the Arjuna Award last year and was named Player of the Season for 2018-2019 by BCCI.
Against Australia, Yadav almost bagged a hat-trick but wicket-keeper Taniya Bhatia missed a catch. “I have missed a handful of hat-tricks now. I hope soon I can bag one,” she said after the match.
Yadav praised Hirwani. “Mentally, he helps us a lot. He talks about understanding the bounce. He talks about how we all have variations but when to use them and how to use the bounce and the right areas to pitch. His inputs have made me a better bowler,” she told the media after the win.
Just 4’11”, Yadav started her career as a pacer before her coach in Agra asked her to switch to spin. After making her T20 and ODI debut against Bangladesh in 2013, her father, an ex-Army man, wanted Yadav to get married. But she convinced him not to push for marriage and let her focus on cricket. She is employed with Indian Railways, Before the 2017 World Cup, where India reached the final, she was a clerk, but is now an office superintendent.
“When a legend like Hirwani can guide a bowler like Poonam, it is just wonderful. She is making the most of it,” said Khushwa.
Despite being so effective in T20, Yadav has not played in foreign leagues like Women’s Big Bash League and England’s KIA League. “It is very strange that Poonam is not yet contracted to any foreign league. She has been the most improved bowler for India in the last two years,” former India captain Anjum Chopra had said during last year’s Women’s T20 Challenge in Jaipur.
Yadav said during that tournament that getting an overseas T20 contract was on her wishlist along with the T20 World Cup in Australia. With a stage to showcase her talent, it is likely that both her goals can be achieved.