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Overseas T20 contract next target for spinner Poonam Yadav

Currently the No 2 bowler in ICC T20 rankings, Yadav with 35 scalps was the leading T20 wicket-taker across men and women last year.

cricket Updated: May 14, 2019 10:44 IST
Shalini Gupta
Shalini Gupta
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Poonam Yadav,Supernovas,Women’s T20 Challenge
File image of Poonam Yadav(AP)

It was two years ago that Poonam Yadav made her Mahuahar village in Uttar Pradesh’s Mainpuri district famous after helping India finish runners-up in the 2017 Women’s ODI World Cup in England.

Prolonged power cuts meant her village could not watch her performances. But her representation to the authorities has had its effect, and power cuts have become a thing of the past.

The 27-year-old leg-spinner, now based in Agra, returned home after helping Supernovas win the Women’s T20 Challenge in Jaipur on Saturday, and the villagers gathered to thank her.

“They haven’t forgotten, summers are no longer dreaded here. It is so wonderful to see our village get 24 hours of electricity,” Yadav said.

After she had made her T20 and ODI debut against Bangladesh in 2013, her father, an ex-Army man, wanted her to get married. “I told my father marriage was the last thing on my mind. I wanted to become the best spinner in the world and win matches for my country,” she said. Yadav has been India’s most successful and impactful T20 bowler in the last two years. Only 4 feet, 11 inches tall, Yadav started as a pacer before her coach in Agra made her switch to spin.

Boosting popularity

India’s performances in the 2017 World Cup have boosted the popularity of women’s cricket in India. Currently the No 2 bowler in ICC T20 rankings, Yadav with 35 scalps was the leading T20 wicket-taker across men and women last year.

Recently Yadav was upgraded to ‘A’ category in the central contracts and she has been nominated for the Arjuna Award as well by BCCI. “I was over the moon when I got the news. Smriti (Mandhana) and Harman (Harmanpreet Kaur) have received it. I am really happy. Mummy and papa to bahut zyada khush hain (my parents are elated),” said Yadav.

Having picked 63 wickets in 41 ODIs and 74 wickets from 54 T20s, getting an overseas T20 contract is next on Yadav’s wishlist.

“I am glad BCCI organised such a brilliant event like the Women’s T20 Challenge. It was a new experience bowling under lights and with so many fans watching us in the stadium. I hope it becomes a regular feature from next year and we’ve many more teams. At the same time, I want to play in foreign leagues.

“Smriti (Mandhana) and Harmanpreet (Kaur) have played Kia Super League and Women’s Big Bash League. Overseas batters spoke to them about me, how they struggle against my bowling. I don’t hesitate to flight, and with more variations I am able to put pressure on batters. I have enjoyed some great rivalry with Australia’s Meg Lanning and Ellyse Healy, who use their feet well against my bowling. I would like to be seen as a skilful bowler who likes to contain batsmen. That is how you create pressure and get wickets.”

Googly helped

The turnaround in Yadav’s career came after she began bowling googlies, in the 2017 World Cup. “I would mostly bowl basic leg-breaks in international cricket before the World Cup. Amita Sharma (ex-India seamer) is a close friend. She suggested I should bowl googlies too and the World Cup was the best platform for that. Against Sri Lanka, I bowled Chamari Atapattu, their best batsman, with a googly. From that moment, my confidence grew and I worked on more variations.”

A chance meeting Afghan leg-spinner Rashid Khan strengthened her resolve. “I met him during a promotional event last year. He is a class act, has won matches for his teams all over the world. He told me not to be predictable and develop as many variations as possible. Even now, I am working on my googly, it is a never-ending process,” says Yadav, who has an impressive economy rate of 3.80 in ODIs and 5.69 in T20s.

Before the 2017 World Cup, Yadav was a clerk with the Railways, but has now been promoted to Office Superintendent, based in Agra. “Earlier, I had to run around to get a promotion, but things changed after the World Cup and I was promoted,” she added.

First Published: May 14, 2019 10:42 IST