#KnowYourStars: Pooja Vastrakar – Gritty All-Rounder

Youngest of the seven siblings in Vastrakar family, Pooja was attracted towards cricket at a very early age. The passion started with batting but ended up with fast bowling. She is now a fast-bowler and a batswoman who can hit big sixes.

Pooja was born in Shahdol, Madhya Pradesh. Her father is a retired BSNL employee and has five daughters and two sons. Pooja lost her mother at the age of 10 which was a huge shock for her at a young age.

Her cricket training started rather conincidentally. She used to play with neighbourhood boys. One fine morning, Pooja went to Mahatma Gandhi Stadium to play with her friends. The coach there saw her playing and he was impressed with her strokeplay that he asked her to come daily for training. She was the only girl at the Gulmohar Cricket Academy where she was getting coaching under coach Srivastava.

Her birthplace Shahdol was a remote district. So, she had to play for the neighbouring Rewa division in inter-division tournament. Virender Sehwag was a hero for her and she wanted to hit the ball like him. So much so that after being asked to line-up as per skill in MP team, she stood amongst the batswomen. However, fate had some other plans and she hurted her left arm finger and she wasn’t able to bat. Her coach asked if she can bowl which she agreed to do.

She had quite a few injuries even before she could get into the national team. Leg Sprain, lower back injury faltered her chances of getting a call for Indian team at the start of 2016. Major setback came for her in the form of Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) during her fielding in domestic one-day match in October 2016. She had a surgery for her knee in January 2017.

For a fast bowler, a knee injury can be career threatening. But she turned this phase to her advantage. She would watch motivational videos to keep herself motivated. She utilized this period to analyze her bowling. After she recovered fully from her surgery, she worked on her bowling with much more intensity using her assessment of her bowling. She increased her pace which became an asset for her.

Her biggest break came when she played 2018 challenger trophy after a year full of injuries. Her performances in challenger trophy made selectors to take a note of her and she was selected for South Africa tour. Her bowling shined on her very first tour and she impressed everyone with her bouncers. However, she had a rough batting form. But she worked hard on her batting after coming back from South Africa. Results of her hard work were visible very soon against Australia in which she slammed 51 which is a world record for number 9 batswoman.

She wants to be identified as an all-rounder and making every effort in achieving so.

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