Pooja Vastrakar - a promising all-rounder in the making

At 18, she promises a lot as an all-rounder in an Indian team that needs some runs in the lower order.

Pooja Vastrakar has made useful contributions with the bat coming down the order.   -  Vijay Soneji

She has emerged as an unlikely batting star for India in the ODI series against Australia. Pooja Vastrakar did that coming in at No. 9 in both the matches at the Reliance Cricket Stadium.

In the first game, she top-scored with 51, without which India would have been dismissed for an embarrassingly low score. And that was only her second ODI match.

Then on Thursday, when the Indian batting with the exception of Smriti Mandhana failed yet again, she made 30 and was the second highest scorer. But she insists she is a bowling all-rounder.

At 18, she promises a lot as an all-rounder in an Indian team that needs some runs in the lower order. She may not have been amongst the wickets in the ongoing series against the formidable Australian batting-up, but she has shown what she is capable of. She surprised Australia’s batting superstar Meg Lanning with a fast bouncer in the first match.

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“I learnt bowling bouncers by watching the boys whom I grew up with playing cricket,” she says. “Then when I went to the National Cricket Academy, I got to bowl on a wicket that had a lot of grass.”

Pooja, however, says she was more into batting when she began playing cricket in her hometown of Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh. “No girl used to play cricket there then and I used to train with boys,” she says. “It was coach Ashutosh Srivastava who encouraged me to play. Once I injured my finger and could not bat for a few days and that was how I began bowling.”

She made her international debut during India’s successful tour of South Africa recently. She had forced her way into the team with her fine showing at the Challenger Trophy.

“That was the turning point of my career,” she says. “I was playing a major tournament after almost a year because of my knee injury.”

Her favourite bowler in international cricket is Jhulan Goswami. “I grew up hearing and reading about her.It feels great to play along with her. She has been my role model and I want to become a cricketer like her.”