Poonam Yadav has picked up eight wickets in four games at the ICC Women’s World T20 2018 with her leg-spin, and is clearly the leader of the inexperienced attack.
For the small person that she is, Poonam Yadav can bring the best to their knees. Quite literally. England’s plans for the diminutive India leg-spinner, ahead of the teams’ ICC Women’s World T20 2018 semi-final clash, included a coach getting on his knees and lobbing the ball up to try and emulate her unique trajectory.
Yadav, meanwhile, is always ready with her own plans. For instance, she puts the cones down at different points, anticipating what length a batter of a certain height can sweep, and bowls to that. She asks the taller members of the support staff to bat, to understand what length works best for what approximate heights.
The aim is to never let the batter dictate the flow of the game.
In a team that has Mithali Raj’s class, Smriti Mandhana’s fearlessness and Harmanpreet Kaur’s audacity, the superstar credentials of ‘PY’ almost go unnoticed. She recently became India’s highest wicket-taker in Twenty20 Internationals and is No.2 in the format on the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s T20I Rankings for Bowlers, only behind Megan Schutt.
We play as per our plans, not as per the batters
This year, no bowler has been as successful: the 35 wickets from 24 matches at an average of 14.08 and economy rate of 5.73 is the best. In an inexperienced Indian bowling attack, she brings the leadership, the wickets and the consistency.
Yadav’s strength is in skill as well as circumstance. Standing at just under five feet, her release point and loopy deliveries don’t match the batter’s eyeline, making her hard to pick. She also bowls especially slowly, sometimes in the 50-kph range; this means the batters have to do considerable work to generate the big shots that will hurry along the total, and also have to stay focused on the time it takes for the ball to get to them.
Commentators have suggested that batters charge down the field to her, and take her on the full. Yet, that’s easier said than done. Her skill at changing up the length means the batters often miss and are stumped.
The honing of the googly in her arsenal has only added to the challenge, especially given how tricky it is to read the delivery from her hand. It is a delivery she has used before, but comes to the World T20 new and improved.
I used to bowl the googly too full, now my length is in control, and I can now bowl it where I want to
“I used to bowl it slow before, now I can bowl it faster, so I have pace variations,” says Yadav. “Also, I used to bowl the googly too full, now my length is in control, and I can now bowl it where I want to.”
The delivery was honed under the tutelage of her local coach. “It takes a lot of hard work,” she adds. “I told my coach I want to develop the googly. He said, ‘Poonam, it’ll take a lot of time and your leg-spin might also suffer’. I said OK and dropped it, but the thought came up again. He warned me that it’ll take a lot of hard work. I said, ‘I will do it’.”
Having said that, Yadav doesn’t think pulling out too many of the variations and going defensive when they don’t work are a good idea. “Whatever the plans that have worked for me, I’ll stick to it,” she
“We don’t follow the batter. We didn’t go too deeply into it, that ‘this batter is playing this shot, so I have to bowl according to that’. We play as per our plans, not as per the batters.”
The pitch for the two semi-finals at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Thursday, 22 November, has been under wraps. But if as per character it stays low, Yadav will again be the vital dynamo of the side.