Yastika Bhatia shakes off stressful Baroda phase to shine for India
- The 21-year-old newcomer, who top-scored in India women's 3rd ODI win over Australia, had suffered mental strain in an episode that led to Atul Bedade's sacking as Baroda women's coach.
All eyes were on left-handed batter Yastika Bhatia when she walked in at No 3 for India against Australia in the third ODI at Ray Mitchell Oval, Mackay on Sunday. A 59-run opening wicket stand had just ended with Smriti Mandhana out for 22. Opener Shafali Verma and Bhatia had to raise a solid partnership for India to chase down Australia’s total of 264. No team had chased such a total to win against the home team.
Playing in only her third ODI, 21-year-old Bhatia showed her batting prowess, stitching a match-winning 101-run stand with Verma. Her 69-ball 64 and Verma’s 91-ball 59 helped India log a record chase, eventually winning by two wickets. Coming from Vadodara, Bhatia was selected to the India camp ahead of the Australia tour. She did well in the camp in Benguluru and caught the eye of skipper Mithali Raj with her swashbuckling batting in the practice matches.
Rajkuvardevi Gaekwad, chairman of women’s cricket selection committee, Baroda Cricket Association (BCA), who has watched Bhatia since she was seven, said, “She did well and scored runs in the camp. She had been doing well for Baroda in recent seasons and was very much in the national reckoning. I have been backing her since she started doing well for Baroda in U-19 tournaments.” Bhatia scored 41 in the warm-up tie against Australia and 35 on ODI debut at No 3. In the second ODI, she was out for nought batting at No 4.
Bhatia’s resolve to play for India grew stronger after she recovered from mental trauma last year. She had a tumultuous time dealing with mental health after she and other members of the Baroda senior women’s team lodged sexual harassment and public shaming complaint against head coach Atul Bedade in March 2020. BCA sacked the former India player as women’s team coach but withdrew his suspension on allegations of sexual harassment. Though his suspension was withdrawn, considering the sensitivity of the matter it was decided not to engage his services for the women’s team.
The mental stress also led to Bhatia missing two state matches for Baroda.
“It was tough for Yasti. She consulted doctors and her sister who is studying medicine also helped her recover from the trauma. Her parents supported her completely to come out of that zone. Moving on from the episode, she worked on her training. Since she started playing, she has been very hard working. After she recovered, she just focused on playing for India,” said Gaekwad, who backs Bhatia to do well in the pink-ball Test and the T20 series as well.
Bhatia scored a T20 century against Manipur in the National under-23 Women’s tournament a few seasons ago as Baroda skipper. In 2016, she was selected for the India Under-19 probables camp.
“Yastika is past that phase and just focused on her form and doing well for India. She has worked hard to make the cut in the Indian team. She has a cool head on her shoulders,” said Gaekwad.
With the seasoned Harmanpreet Kaur injured, young Bhatia has eased into the top-order and impressed with a calm approach and shots all around the wicket. With India’s middle-order struggling, she can lend the power of youth along with teenaged opener Shafali Verma.