Yastika Bhatia, Jhansi Lakshmi power India A to Women’s Challenger title

Yastika, who smashed her third fifty of the tournament, was the player of the match for her knock of 86, which included 10 fours and a six

Published: 09th December 2021 08:42 PM  |   Last Updated: 09th December 2021 08:42 PM   |  A+A-

The India A team with the trophy (Photo | BCCI Women)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Pooja Vastrakar is a young allrounder rising through the ranks in the Indian team. But, the 22-year-old doesn’t see herself the same way in her state team, or the India D side that she led to the final of the Women’s Challenger Trophy in Vijayawada. Going into the summit clash, Vastrakar had scored 161 runs in four innings, averaging 53.66. At the other end was 26-year-old Sneh Rana, whose India A side managed to pip India B and C on Net Run Rate to qualify for the final. They were against an unbeaten India D, but the Railways allrounder and India A coach Nooshin Al Khader knew a thing or two about winning domestic titles.

Batting first, India D openers started well, adding 47 runs for the first wicket. After Indrani Roy got out, S Meghana kept the innings going with G Divya, but the aggressive duo fell in quick succession. In-form Vastrakar got run out for the second time against India A as her team slumped from 101/3 to 117/5. All-rounder Amanjot Kaur came to the rescue, taking the team to 219/8 with an unbeaten 74-ball 55.

In reply, Keerthy K James struck early for India D, but CH Jhansi Lakshmi and Yastika Bhatia hung in there and took their team forward. With no scoreboard pressure, the left-handed pair brought up their respective half-centuries. It seemed like there was a twist in the tale when Rajeshwari Gayakwad picked up four wickets, including the two set batters. However, Sushree Dibyadarshini held her nerve, taking India A to the title.

Acknowledging that they were 30 runs short, Vastrakar felt that her run out was the turning point in the first innings. “After the way we started, I thought we couldn’t finish well. We needed at least 250 on this wicket. But our bowlers Rajeshwari and Keethy performed well helping us come closer to defending the total.”

Referring to the young bowlers as ‘bache’, the 22-year-old said that they will learn from the experience of playing in the tournament. “Me and Raja di (Rajeshwari) were trying to build dot-ball pressure but our young bowlers went searching for wickets a little bit. But we are a young team. They got some good experience,” she said, adding that Kanika Ahuja, Saika Ishaque, Amanjot Kaur, and Ayushi Soni were the shining lights of her team.

Yastika, who smashed her third fifty of the tournament, was the player of the match for her knock of 86, which included 10 fours and a six. The southpaw from Baroda — who had been in good form since her India debut in Australia — expressed her disappointment for not seeing through the chase.

 “Before the match we have mental preparation and visualise that we play (the)  full quota of overs and complete the target,” she said about her preparation before adding that there is nothing match-practice and spending time in the middle.

When the national selectors and India head coach Ramesh Powar were seen in the ground during the first match, it was understood that they wanted to have a look at a bigger pool of players to pick from with the ODI World Cup scheduled in a few months. It seems like there will be an India training camp shortly — just like the one they had prior to the Australia tour — which Rana confirmed after the match. "I have learned many things from this tournament. For me, next stop is the upcoming India camp and I will be working to improve my fitness," she said.

Often the challenger tournaments are about providing the young talents in the domestic circuit a platform to compete at a higher level. Going by numbers from the tournament, one can say with some certainty that a few new names have emerged: Meghana (207 runs), Disha Kasat (153 runs), Kaur (102 runs & 2 wickets), Ahuja (8 wickets), and Chandu V (10 wickets) - and it wouldn't be a surprise if these young players get picked for the India camp ahead of the New Zealand tour.

Brief Scores: India D 219/8 in 50 ovs (Amanjot 55 n.o., Meghana 45; Kasat 3/39) lost to India A 224/7 in 45.4 ovs (Yastika 86, Jhansi 64; Rajeshwari 4/36)


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