Over the years, the Indian women’s cricket team has depended mostly on spinners along with the pace of Jhulan Goswami. Entering a multi-format series in Australia, India had a fragile line-up with experienced Goswami, Shikha Pandey and newcomers Meghn Singh and Poo Vastrakar among others.
Playing in the first ODI of the series, the Indian tempo lineup seemed to be low and Pandey couldn’t take a look. However, after the second ODI, the form of the pacera rose and they flourished by entering the one-time pink ball test. Playing the role of supporting 38-year-old Goswami, Vastrakar attracted attention with his pace and momentum in the Carrara Test on the Gold Coast.
India dominated the game against terrible Australia, but heavy rain in the first two days meant there was not enough time to extort victory in the four-day game, which ended in a tame draw on Sunday.
The dismissal of Meg Lanning and Beth Mooney drew attention to the 22-year-old pacer from Madhya Pradesh. “It was a nice experience bowling with a pink ball under the lights. The pink ball does not move as much as the red one initially moves. I was having fun bowling under the lights when it started to move. The input of Jhulan didi and coach Ramesh Powar helped me gain confidence in the networks and it worked well during the game, ”said Vastrakar about her performance at the Test.
She was the best player in Australia’s first innings with 3/49, while Beth Mooney made a deep square leg with a bouncer in the second inning. Known for her finger-kicking skills, Vastrakar also impressed with the bat, scoring 57 in the warm-up match and 29 in the second ODI in Mackay.
“I saw Pooja more as a hitter in domestic tournaments. Keeping in mind the ODI World Cup, we were looking for someone who could score thorns as well as give us some certifications. She fit in pretty well with that role. It was different in England. She came back after the break and looked for rhythm. Playing at the ODI against Australia, she did a good job as an all-rounder. The way she bowled with the pink ball and stood with Meghna to Jhulan was remarkable, ”said coxswain Mithali Raj, referring to the player nicknamed‘ chota Hardik ’because of her versatile abilities.
Growing up in the small town of Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh, cricket was a hobby for Vastrakar to begin with. The youngest of seven children – she lost her mother when she was 10, while her father is a retired BSNL employee – Vastrakar nurtured the dream of playing for India. She has always been encouraged by her siblings, especially her sister, a sprinter who has given up her sporting aspirations to support a budding cricketer.
She was only 15 years old when a ligament injury forced her to have ACL surgery and prevented her from playing cricket for almost 10 months. Recovering from that, Vastrakar hit the headlines when she hit a 56-ball 51 in her third ODI match against Australia in Vadodara in March 2018.
“Injuries are never under your control and you have to work on recovery. Injuries have always plagued me. During the T20 World Cup in West India 2018, I suffered a tendon injury. I couldn’t solidify my place on the Indian team due to injuries. At that time, a lot of time was lost due to the pandemic “, said Vastrakar.
She came to prominence last season when she scored two consecutive double centuries — 262 and 219 in consecutive days — at a divisional cricket tournament organized by the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association.
With two tests, 10 ODIs and 20 T20s under his belt, Vastrakar can take advantage of the confidence he has gained in Australia when he goes to the World Championships in New Zealand (March-April 2022) where the role of pacer will be crucial.
In the T20 team — a three-game series to be played in Carrara from Thursday — it would be interesting to see how Vastrakar takes advantage and do justice to his versatile abilities.