NEW DELHI: India spinner Poonam Yadav who is all set to receive the Arjuna Award, on Wednesday said that it is a proud moment for every athlete when an accolade comes their way.
Yadav will be receiving the Arjuna Award along with men's cricketer Ravindra Jadeja. The accolade is an honour bestowed by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in order to recognise the achievement of athletes.
"Every athlete feels proud when you get Arjuna award. I always dreamt of winning the Arjuna award, I have struggled a lot. When I found out about the accolade, I was not able to believe it. I was very happy when I found out about it," Yadav told ANI.
"It is the biggest achievement for any sportsperson. My journey has been very long, I have struggled a lot, I was criticised a lot, many people wrote me out. People had expectations of me, probably that is the reason why they used to find flaws in my game," she added.
She also gave insights about her initial days in the sport. Yadav told how she used to play along with boys in gully cricket.
The 28-year-old, who made her debut in the year 2013, thanked her brother for all the support.
"I used to play along with boys, I used to play gully cricket. I used to take the wicket of my neighbour on a daily basis, so he used to complain to my mother and I had to stop playing gully cricket. My friends told my parents that I play good cricket, so they understood me," Yadav said.
"My brother has also been supportive. When I received my Indian cap, it was a special moment. I was not originally a part of the squad, but someone else got an injury so I was selected. When I got into the team, I performed nicely so it was a good feeling," she added.
The all-rounder, who has taken 63 wickets in the ODI format hailed 2017 Women's World Cup as the turning point for women's cricket in the country.
"I hope to better my performances and make my nation proud. When we played the World Cup in 2017, people got behind us as we reached the finals. We got immense support, people promoted women's cricket. I think media has also helped in making people aware about women's cricket. After 2017, people started recognising me," Yadav said.
India will next face South Africa in five-match T20I series and three-match ODI series. Yadav said the series will be a challenging outing for the team as the Proteas have some quality players in their lineup.
The T20I series between the two countries will begin from September 24.
"All our players in the team are very focused. Everyone is trying to better their performances. Every member of the team is working hard. We had a one month camp, we trained with each other. Our team is quite united, our focus is just on playing cricket," Yadav said.
"The series against South Africa will be a challenging outing. They have good players and a perfect combination of experience and youth. The T20 format allows every team to have a chance of winning. We are a good outfit in ODIs. We have to maintain our fitness and skills," she added.
Yadav has played 54 T20Is and 41 ODIs for India, managing to take 74 and 63 wickets, respectively.
She is currently ranked as the number three bowler in the ICC Women's T20I bowler rankings whereas she is positioned at the ninth position in the ODI format.