Sun. May 19th, 2024

There’s something special about Pooja Vastrakar Test cricket and Australia. In the time that India played the Aussies of Meg Lanning during a Pink Ball Test in Carrara in 2021, Pooja had a miserable match score of 62 for four from 26.4 overs, which comprised the top wickets Meg Lanning, Tahlia McGrath, and Beth Mooney.

Two years later, and against the same team, however, this time, at the storied Wankhede Stadium, the Pooja Vastrakar show went on time. She had a hand in rfemoving Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Annabel Sutherland, and Ashleigh Gardner. She gave the ball away for just 53 runs in 16 overs. The seamer’s skill assisted India in bringing together a powerful Australian batsman’s line-up for a standard 219 on the first game of the day.

The win comes just two days after a tense early morning that ended the meek English batters’s line-up, giving India an incredible 347-run success.

“The ball she got Pez (Perry) off was a peach of a delivery,” said McGrath, who is one of the Australian vice-captains. It’s not hard to understand her admiration. After watching Pooja be afflicted with injuries frequently in the last few years, to see her in her best shape and healthy is sure to warm anyone’s heart.

Humble beginnings

For Ashutosh Srivastava, the coach of Pooja’s youth, she remains the same 12-year-old who he thought was being a young boy. She had been ferociously pounding the ball for years back in Shahdol, which is a small city located to the east of Madhya Pradesh.

It is therefore amazing to watch people from this region accomplishing what she has done is impressive,  Srivastava tells Sportstar.

The first time that Pooja tried cricket was with a bat. Ironically, it was an injury that led her to bowling.

“She first came to us as a batting enthusiast as a child and was picked to play at the Madhya Pradesh camp at the age of twelve. At that time, she suffered a hand injury. A coach came in and told her, “Pooja, You’re at the camp. Girls don’t visit this often. So why not give it a shot and take a bowl?” It was an opportunity for me to become an all-rounder. That’s an advantage for women’s cricket.” He says.

The Srivastava Academy, located in Shahdol, is where Pooja’s refuge is. This is where she’s been to get back into her rhythm following injury and prepare for any challenges that may arise in the field of cricket. The red ball match that she had against England and Australia was different.

“Pooja set a goal to throw her ball in the direction of stumps. She would then work on how she could cut the ball through the batter, and learn how to make the most of Wobble Seam. She was able to bowl for 2 odd hours in order to study each of these factors. When it was raining, but there weren’t any matches the team constructed a matting wicket. Senior and U-19 boys were able to attend training sessions and she would then bowl at the players. Before the Test match against England the team used to bowl to one wicket in the middle field,” the coach recollects.

Body and mind are in sync.

From knee pain and the anterior cruciate ligament tear to a diagnosis of COVID-19, Many physical ailments are amidst Pooja and the sport that her heart beats for.

“As an instructor I’d be wondering the future. I worried, but she wasn’t. Every time she got the niggle, she got it fixed and returned,” Srivastava remembers.

A bowler who had fast speed, Pooja sometimes struggled for control. It’s possible that the Indian management never looked at into the assignment of a new ball.

The run conceded is the measure everyone looks at and talks about,” he said.

That’s where Troy Cooley, longtime National Cricket Academy (NCA) staffer as well as India’s bowling coach, can make a difference. To Pooja or perhaps all of the Indian bowling squad, Cooley doubles up as the security shield, protecting their bowlers from the negatives while emulating positive things.

“His presence within the team has proved so beneficial. He’s very optimistic. When we play badly He doesn’t get involved in. He is focused on the positive aspects we’ve accomplished in a session,” she said following Day 1 of the single Test match against Australia.

Pooja is in the company of people who assist her in expanding her horizons and introducing new variants that make her a dynamic element within the game of games.

“Naturally, I tend to stick with outswingers. However, in the analysis video, we carried out for England as well as Australia, We saw that both teams typically encounter difficulties when it comes to the ball coming in. The plan was, therefore, to make use of the wobble seam in order to get the ball into the field since the ball could cut and cause trouble for batters further,” she added.

Two batters from marquees were utilized as models to explain the issue in just two weeks. Natalie Sciver-Brunt could not get an even straight ball that was thrown into Pooja correctly and ended up with her stumps erected. Perry was dismissed with the lowest score of her Test career of just two balls. This was due to an extended ball that came from Pooja, who climbed in and threw the veteran pro.

Helping hand

One of the elements that are apparent in working on this Indian team is the feeling of camaraderie and the worth of helping one’s teammate, whether it’s by way of a ball or bat.

Pooja knows this better than the majority, as she was formed to be Jhulan Goswami’s nanny before she transitioned into his partner Renuka Singh. When she was at Wankhede, it was her turn to be helped to a degree by a tough Sneh Rana.

“Before lunch, we’d given up additional runs that we intended to concede. Therefore, when we resumed the game after lunch, our idea was to break the limits we set and to bowl together. If one of us concedes, one bowler at the other ends had to limit. Because Sneh contained runs, I was able free myself to attack. If she were taken in for run, I’d changed to a cautious approach.” Pooja explained.

A team player

There’s been plenty of debate over Pooja’s position in the team, that she plays with both bat and ball. When playing England, there was a discussion about India opting to mix Renuka’s speed with spin from Sneh. Pooja was able to mark her run-up a lot later. In the match against Australia in a field that had plenty of grass on the edges, Pooja was given an earlier run-up, using the ball she had received for a shift.

The length she has is great for tests. She is quick and runs repeatedly puts an immense pressure on batters. We focused on taking advantage of missed balls and throwing the balls back. We also attempted to make use of the left-right combination in the best way possible in order to reduce her length. The lessons we will learn on her performances today,” McGrath said.

Around 1,218 kilometers from Shahdol, a happy Srivastava is pleased to witness his daughter’s hard work bringing regular rewards. However, he has a dream.

“If you want to know I believe she ought to play higher in the line. However, the people who make these calls know exactly what the team is looking for,” he concludes.

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