2022 Women’s World Cup – Yastika Bhatia wants to erase the pain of India’s defeat in the 2017 World Cup finals.

Confrontation Hardik Pandya bowling in full swing and running it through the covers wasn’t exactly like that Yastika Bhatia scheduled to spend the months of June and July last summer.

The Indian women’s cricket team was touring England at the time for the multi-format series. And Bhatia, then unlimited and inexplicably left out of the detachment although she had not played a single home game against South Africa just two months earlier, she struggled away at the Reliance International Cricket Stadium in her hometown, Barodi.

For 45 days, under the supervision of a former Indian goalkeeper Kiran More, Bhatia has strengthened its case for its belated debut in India. “My heart was definitely broken because I expected to maybe get another series where I could prove myself,” she says.

In those long hours spent in the nets, she was given the opportunity to stay and strike against the experienced Ranji Trophy players from the senior state team Baroda. Among them were brothers Pandya, Hardik and Krunal, India and IPL allrounders.

“It only covers the drive to Hardik bhaiyya it gave me a lot of confidence that I could play well too. I would have gotten away with it, but playing good shots against him boosted my confidence, ”she recalls.“ Krunal bhaiyya it also helped me, with inputs on how to fight death. “

Hardik encouraged Bhatia to leave all the remnants of her disappointment that she was not chosen for the tour of England. “He’s very down to earth and we’ve developed a good relationship. He said, ‘Look, I haven’t seen a girl play as well as you. It won’t be long before you come back.'”

“[Being left out for the England tour] it was a disguised blessing because I had to spend so much time improving my game preparing for a tour of Australia with Mr. Kiran, ”she says.“ I was very lucky to be in the city at the time. In those 45 days, I had about 20 sessions with him. That completely changed my cricket perspective. His personalized training of hitting and guarding the door changed my view of my game. I became more confident, more positive and more aggressive, and my shots grew. “

Bhatia sought tutelage from Morea, a former Indian national team player with more than 150 appearances and a former men’s national team head coach, on the advice of then-India Women head coach and former Indian striker WV Raman. More, who also lives in Baroda, was familiar with the exploits of the left-handed wicketaper, which has been talked about in the city since her teenage days.

“I saw a few of her videos and I knew she was doing well at home,” More says. Raman also spoke to More about Bhatia, saying she would benefit from his coaching. “She contacted me then, visited my academy and we started working on the finer parts of her open net game: how to pinch singles and two runs and also be aggressive in approach,” More says.

Bhati’s ability to alternate between anchoring and offensive was most strikingly visible during her first international half-century, in third ODI on tour in Australia. She scored a 69-ball 64, driving India’s most successful ODI chase, setting a vital position for the century with Shafali Verm. Bhatia was then only 20 years old, played only her third game in Indian colors and replaced captain Mithali Raja in 3rd place. The result is Australia a world record series of consecutive ODI victories at 26.

“She’s a great cricketer and also very strong – mentally and physically,” More says. “He learns fast, he works hard on everything. If he wants something, he will practice it ten times. And he asks a lot of questions – ‘Why this and why not that.'” I like her attitude.

“When she comes to training, she’s completely focused, she gives her 110% and she wants to exercise every day, so I have to tell her, ‘And you have to rest and you can’t keep exercising every day.’ When someone is so focused on improvement, it will surely go well sooner or later. “

“I wasn’t intimidated by the opportunity. It was normal,” Bhatia says of the Australian tour. “I talked to my seniors from India about what it’s like to make your debut against a world-class opponent. Head coach Ramesh [Powar] sir and kicking coach [Shiv Sunder] Mr. Gentleman gave me good contributions during the camp in Bengaluru and they explained the match scenarios and my role of hitting. It helped me get mentally fit and gave me confidence. “

During that time in Bengaluru, she provided a taste of things to come when, in a day-and-night match within a 50-over-50 team, he scored five sixes, forcing the coaching staff and some of the national selectors present to sit down and take notice. It’s a feat, she says, she relived in her head by going on a mission in Australia.

Bhatia says her confident posture and style of play is the result of playing in more sports than her little feet. She has a black belt in karate, is a swimmer, and has played badminton at the district level. “So every time I step on a cricket field, things are achievable. It’s like a positive challenge where you feel good.”

Then one of her first badminton coaches moved to the part of Baroda away from where she lives, a cricket first appeared on the horizon. Around that time, when her father, Harish, was looking for alternatives, Baroda Ranji player Pinal Shah, who lives in the Bhatias neighborhood, once told him that girls also play cricket in the city.

It won’t be long before Harish enrolled eight-year-old Bhatia and her three-year-old sister Josita at the Youth Center (YSC), one of the oldest clubs in the city. Led by YSC coach Raju Parab, Bhatia cut her teeth in cricket. Although she is naturally right-handed, she has learned to strike with her left hand because of the relative edge that left-handed hitters (and bowlers) have in sports.

For a secondary skill, she was encouraged to play at a medium pace. Then some of the selectors of the Baroda Cricket Association (BCA) came to call the club, looking for goalkeepers, and asked her to be ashamed of guarding. “The next day my dad bought me gloves and wicketwork insoles,” she says. “My sister stayed medium fast because the coaches thought it would be easier to train the younger one to make a change.”

At 11, Bhatia would debut for Baroda under 19, as a pure hitter. She started training with Santos Chaugule, who became her longtime personal trainer and to whom she attributes the strengthening of her foundations. In 2013, she would cross paths with former Indian captain and coach Purnim Rau, who at the time was a BCA senior women’s coach. “She told me I have the potential to play for India in the future,” Bhatia says. “In a way, she was the one who sowed the seeds of my Indian dream in my head.”

In the same year, she broke through to the side of Baroda senior T20. Over the next three seasons, she managed to get into the senior one-day team and the U-23 and senior zone teams. Among the highlights of her domestic career, she counts her two fifties at the 2017 Interzone Senior Senior Tournament. That year proved to be crucial for Bhatia.

“I did well on my 12th board exam, 2017, I achieved 89% in the scientific profession,” she says, “but I felt I had a greater penchant for cricket, so I told my parents I wanted to become a cricketer, not a doctor. . “

The Bhatia family has a passion for sports. Her father, an executive engineer at a public company, and sister, who was selected to the Baroda U-19 cricket team in 2011 but eventually decided on a career in medicine, are both, like Bhatie, black belts in karate. Her mother Garima is a retired senior bank manager.

“My parents agreed, seeing my potential, because the West Zone won the state championship that year, and I was their captain. So they fully supported me. ‘No problem, you should do what brings you happiness.’ they said.”

She studied science, which often did not leave much time for cricket training, so she switched to the humanities. “This is how my transformation towards where I am today began in a significant way. I enrolled in BA online [Bachelor of Arts] in general, so I got a lot of time to concentrate on my cricket. I started exercising twice a day, and I started running and exercising at the gym in the morning. The whole day would be focused on cricket. “

Bhatia remembers various relatives, near and far, who told their family they were wrong to allow cricket to become her primary focus. “What are you doing? You know she’s so good at studying and there’s no future in women’s cricket,” he recalls of how people spoke.

“The 2017 Women’s World Cup was held in June and July, around the same time I started investing more time and energy exclusively in cricket. India had an unforgettable campaign and all of a sudden you could see people watching [women’s cricket in India] otherwise, ”she says.

The heart of India’s defeat in the final of that tournament is still running, she says. “Dil bhaari ho gaya tha [My heart was heavy]. Things would have changed a lot for the better if India had won that World Cup. Like, maybe so far it has been a women’s IPL, more games, better salaries for domestic players …

“I remember being very emotional after the loss. It changed me,” she says. “I wanted the next time the team goes out on the field, and I be part of the team to try to help them win the World Cup.”

When her son realizes that this dream is very close to becoming a reality now, five years later, she seems to be overwhelmed by disbelief. It’s hard to say whether the screen froze at her end or not until Bhatia broke the silence with a confession. “It’s a bit like a dream, this change that happened in just one year [since that South Africa series]. “

Sea believes that Bhati’s resilience is one of the qualities that could take her place. “I think he has great potential to behave well for India for at least ten to 12 years, given that he is only 21,” he says. “And she has everything she needs to be good both as a hitter and as a goalkeeper. She clung to Hardik and Krunal in Baroda and hit them, and from time to time she was hit in the chest and leg facing the fast bowlers. But she never gave up. She’s a very brave girl. “

Bhatia hopes to be able to rely on her positive outlook to overcome challenges on and off the field. She says the ups and downs of the top sport she has experienced in the recent past will only get stronger when the stakes are high and the chips are down.

“I want to progress with every tournament that comes my way,” she says. “The World Cup is the most important thing. Whenever I look back on my journey, I feel real because I know I’ve put in a lot of hard work to get this far and work harder instead of feeling trapped in disappointments. My journey has just begun and I want to do more in I look forward to what awaits me. “

Annesha Ghosh is a subcontractor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha

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