Age: 23 Years
Some Lesser Known Facts About Pooja Vastrakar
- Pooja Vastrakar is an Indian cricketer, who is a bowling all-rounder in the national women’s cricket team.
- Reportedly, Pooja was enticed by a group of boys from her locality in Shahdol to play cricket. In an interview, she said,
I was a good gully cricketer, so I urged my sister to help me get into an academy. She went around the town to find one, but came back to say that none of them trained girls. So I left thinking about it.”
- She was good at gully cricket but was rarely given the opportunity to bat. In an interview, she said,
Ek do overs hi milte hain, aur main woh ek do overs mein hi kuch na kuch kamaal kar deti thi (I’d get only one or two overs but I’d do something amazing in them),”
- She along with the children of her locality decided to use the ground facilities of one of the cricket academies nearby, which remained unused in the morning, to play cricket without worrying about breaking the windows or losing balls. This is when Pooja got introduced to her coach, Ashutosh Shrivastava.
- In an interview, Vastrakar stated,
We used to play 4-over games. As luck would have it, on one of the days when it was my turn to bat, I hit a few sixes, one guy spotted me. He came and asked me if I was interested to join the academy and took me to Ashutosh Shrivastav, who has been my coach since then.”
- Shrivastav took note of her natural talent and started training her at his academy, Gulmohar Cricket Academy, which was an all-boys facility.
- Since Vastrakar was the only girl who took training at Shrivastav’s academy, all her training took place with the boys.
- Unfortunately, Vastrakar’s mother died just after Pooja joined the academy. She was only 10 years old and her mother’s demise devastated her to such an extent that she stopped going to her cricket training sessions at the academy.
- Later, when her coach realised her absence for a prolonged duration, he approached Pooja’s family to check on her. Upon hearing the news about Pooja’s mother, he asked Pooja’s sisters to convince her to join back the academy, which she obliged to.
- Shahdol was yet to be made into a division so initially, Pooja played for the neighbouring Rewa division in Madhya Pradesh and Central Zone.
- By the time she was 14, she was selected for Madhya Pradesh’s senior cricket team.
- She made her debut in major domestic cricket in a Twenty20 match against Odisha on 9 March 2013.
- When Vastrakar started her cricket training, she was inclined towards batting; however, she gradually transitioned into becoming a bowling allrounder. In an interview, she revealed,
When I got into the MP team, they asked the batsmen to queue up one side and bowlers on the other. Obviously, I went and stood among the batsmen. At that time, I injured my left ring finger after jamming it into the door hinge, so I had not been able to bat for a couple of days. The coach there asked if I can bowl as well, which is when I rolled my arm over for the first time. Bas bangayi bowling allrounder (That’s how I became a bowling allrounder).”
- At the age of 15, she became a part of the India Green Women Squad.
- In 2016, Pooja suffered a lower back injury because of prolonged neglect on her part, which made her out of contention for a place in the squad for India’s tour of Australia.
- Later, she sprained her ankle right before the home series against Sri Lanka, which jeopardised her chances for a national call-up.
- She received a huge blow when her knee got twisted leading to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear while she was fielding during a senior women’s domestic one-dayer between Madhya Pradesh and Punjab. She had to undergo knee surgery which further shelved her national call-up.
- To cope with the distasteful situation of her injury, she watched motivational videos of the speaker, Sandeep Maheshwari, and Olympians on YouTube and Facebook. Pooja’s coach, Ashutosh Shrivastava, also testified that Pooja had a strong faith in herself and her willpower to overcome all the obstacles and make a career in the national cricket team. In an interview, he said,
Pooja was confident she’d get through it all. When she returned home, after getting some 15-20 days of rest and her rehab, her zeal to make it to the Indian side only got stronger.”
- Post recovery, Vastrakar noticed a change in her pace from 105 kmph to 110 kmph or more.
- In October 2018, she was named in India’s squad for the 2018 ICC Women’s World Twenty20 tournament in the West Indies but was ruled out due to an injury which she suffered in a warmup match.
- The 2018 Challenger Trophy became an instrumental stepping stone in her career as it became the basis of her selection in the squad for the South Africa tour and also for her to be handed a central contract based on only six international appearances.
- In January 2020, she was named in India’s squad for the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
- Following the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia, she was named in India’s Test squad for their one-off match against the England women’s cricket team in May 2021.
- In January 2022, she was named in India’s team for the 2022 Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand.
- She made headlines when she grasped 4 wickets in IND Women vs NZ Women at Hamilton in ICC Women’s World Cup on March 10, 2022. To add to her achievement, she dismissed New Zealand’s Suzie Bates with her one-handed throw.
- Later in the tournament, she hit a huge 81-metre six.
— The Bridge (@the_bridge_in) March 19, 2022
- She is often told by her teammates that she and Hardik Pandya have a similar way of picking up the ball and launching it.
- In an interview, she revealed the reason why Mithali Raj calls her Babloo. She said,
Hardik Pandya had streaked his hair blue recently, so Mithu di (Mithali Raj) gave him the nickname ‘Bablue/Babloo’. And, then, she started calling me the same kyunki woh mujhe chhota Hardik Pandya bulaatey hain (because they call me junior Hardik Pandya).”
- The India fielding coach, Biju George, calls Pooja Babulal. He explained his rationale behind this in an interview and said,
Have you seen those videos of dogs barking the lions away? That’s Babulal. Pooja reminds me of a guy who was all skin and bones, but, at the same time, all fight.”
- According to media reports, Pooja used to play cricket with a laundry stick or wooden strap during her childhood days, when she had limited resources and no access to a bat.
- Recalling an incident from the NCA under-19 camp that she attended in 2015, Pooja revealed in an interview,
When I went to the NCA for an Under-19 camp in 2015, the wicket at the end was quite green. I had read two months earlier that [Suresh] Raina had been struggling against the bouncer, and must have been at the NCA to work on that. I wondered if it was the same wicket where he had honed his game against the bouncer. The ball was rising nicely, so I thought, ‘All right, let me try out a bouncer here’. Then even on flat wickets I started bowling it. In the domestic games, I started bowling one almost every over, first or second ball.”
- Vastrakar considers cricketer, Jhulan Goswami her role model. In an interview, she stated,
But as a female cricketer, Jhulu di (Jhulan Goswami) has been a role model. From the beginning I have seen her, have read about her; she is such a consistent bowler. She backs me a lot and tells me, ‘This is how you must use the non-bowling arm. If you try, you can bump up your speed to 120-125kmph. Unko dekhke chalna hai aur unke jaisa banna hai (I want to follow her path and become like her).”
- In May 2022, Pooja along with her colleagues from the cricket team appeared as guests on Kapil Sharma‘s talk show, The Kapil Sharma Show, which airs on Sony TV.
- Reportedly, Pooja contributed a large sum of money from her income to her sister’s wedding and also helps her father to support her family financially.
- In an interview, Pooja revealed that she used to earn Rs.1200 per domestic match for the U19 game. She added that she collected approximately Rs.15000 to purchase an English Willow bat worth Rs.4500 and a pair of studs worth Rs.1200 since she had no sponsorships at the beginning of her career. She never asked her father to buy her cricket equipment because she did not want to burden him with all the expenses.
- Having aced the bowling part of the game, Pooja showed her batting skills as well in various matches. In an interview, she expressed that she aspires to be an allrounder. She said,
I want to be known as an allrounder who excels in all three departments, in every sense of the term. When people talk of me as an allrounder, I’d like them to say, “Pooja ko sab kuch aata hai, aur acchi tarah se aata hai (Pooja can do everything, and she’s good at everything).”