When Yastika Bhatia was in quarantine for a fortnight in Australia before the One-day International series began, she forwarded videos of her playing the guitar to her father. She had picked up the instrument during containment during the second wave of Covid.
On Sunday, Harish recalled one of those videos he received on his phone.
“She sent one of an old Bollywood song, ‘Papa kehte hai bada naam karega’,” he laughs as he describes it. “And now she has.”
Harish woke up at 4 a.m., a good 90 minutes before Yastika played her third game for the national team. When she came out at bat in the second inning, Yastika scored 64 points from 69 deliveries in the Indian women’s team’s most successful ODI pursuit.
The victory broke Australia’s world record for 26 ODI trotting victories, a streak that included victories over world champion New Zealand, South Africa and England. Although the Indians have already lost the three-game series, victory in Sunday’s final game would give them a much-needed boost. There is a test match next week and three T20 internationals to follow.
Opener Shefali Verma contributed with a consistent 56 of 91, as did Deepti Sharma and Sneh Rana with 31 and 30 respectively. But Yastika played a central role and laid the groundwork for a famous victory.
In Sunday’s innings, Harish saw the result of the thousands of shots he and his personal trainer Santosh Chaugule would throw in the makeshift nets at home. Former Indian wicket keeper Kiran More has helped her develop powerful strikes.
“She is a very complete player, the approach and technique are very good,” says More, who worked with Yastika for two months before the Australian tour. “There’s a long way to go and she just played three games. It’s still a good start.
Former national team coach WV Raman had contacted More and asked him to meet with Yastika in April.
“We worked on his technique and a few drills on the heavy hitting. Indian girls need power, compared to foreign girls who are generally stronger, ”he adds. “But she is a very good student and she had talent. The areas that she wanted to work on, we did, like hooks, square cuts, long shots as well. I told her what to do on the international stage.
For those aggressive shots on Sunday – she scored nine limits – Harish credits More’s job. At the same time, he remembers the morning sessions with his daughter when the pandemic hit last year.
“The society we live in has been very helpful. They moved a few vehicles into the parking lot to help us set up a makeshift batting net, ”he recalls. “We couldn’t use the hard leather ball as it could get noisy and a lot of the residents are elderly so we practiced with tennis balls. The rebound has been sudden and unpredictable, but that’s what Australian pitches can look like. And you need to have quick wrists to work in these conditions. Training with Chaugule monsieur really sharpened his batting reflexes, then Kiran More’s help refined him further.
In addition to working on her batting and wicket-keeper skills, she also improved her fitness level.
“She also had a fitness trainer who ran early morning sessions on Zoom calls,” says Rajkuvardevi Gaekwad, chair of the Baroda Cricket Association (BCA) women’s selection committee.
“She spent an hour each morning locked in her room doing her fitness exercises. And she would do it all without needing to goad him. She has been a very independent person. Like the way she would finish a match on tour, go back to her room, freshen up and start studying without anyone telling her.
The young left-hander has been an A-level student her entire life. She only had 15 days to prepare for her Class 12 exams, but she scored 89 percent.
It was a surprise at the time, but when Harish looks back it was not unexpected.
“She always liked to learn. Either it’s something in cricket or something else. She recently learned the guitar because of the second confinement. During the first lockdown last year, she signed up for online courses and learned French, ”he says.
Her career in cricket began when she was five years old. She and her older sister Josita would train together and eventually played for the Baroda U-19 team. Josita, however, decided she wanted to pursue a career in medicine. Yastika was certain of cricket, however.
She went on to captain the Under-19 and Under-23 teams before being called up to the national team. She has played three games for India so far, but Sunday’s stunt in a record-breaking chase was her best.
“She’s a pretty jovial character when she’s not playing. There is no doubt that today’s win would spark something in her, but I’m sure there could be a few festive guitar sessions at the team’s hotel tonight, ”Gaekwad adds.