Poonam Yadav, India women’s premier legspinner, believes that it will be hard to come out of months of physical inactivity and resume playing at peak intensity following the pandemic-induced hiatus. Yadav last played competitive cricket earlier this year in March, when India lost to Australia by 85 runs in the women’s T20 World Cup final at the MCG.
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India were initially scheduled to tour England in June, but it was pushed back to September because of covid-19, and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) subsequently planned to turn it into a tri-series with South Africa as the third team. However, India pulled out of the tour earlier this week because of the growing threat posed by the pandemic.
“If you turn up at the ground after four-five months, it will be very difficult to perform instantly for all players,” Yadav told PTI. “But we are keeping ourselves fit and when we are allowed to resume group training, we should be back to full fitness in 20-25 days.”
The men’s T20 World Cup that was scheduled for October-November this year has already been postponed to next year, and a decision on next year’s Women’s ODI World Cup in New Zealand will be made soon, according to Greg Barclay, chairman of New Zealand Cricket.
“It is a massive challenge,” Yadav said of the uncertainty around international fixtures following the pandemic. “I have been bowling here but it is totally different in a competitive environment. We last played in March and there is still no clarity over our next series.”
So, what has Yadav been up to at her home in Agra during this downtime?
“There are many things I have done in this phase that otherwise I didn’t have time for,” she said. “Spending time with family, watching TV (mainly Mahabharat and Ramayan – Indian mythologies). I can cook now, my mother always wanted me to learn that. I had never cooked anything other than chai (tea) and Maggi (instant noodles) but thanks to the lockdown.
“I always wanted to ride a bullet but I was not being able to learn with the schedule that I had. There was this fear also: what if I get injured?So I never used to try it, but now I have learnt that, thanks to my brother.”
Yadav had a memorable T20 World Cup in Australia, where she emerged as India’s highest wicket-taker, with ten strikes in five games at an average of 11.90 and economy rate of 5.95. On the bigger grounds down under, she proved particularly difficult to get away with her loopy legbreaks and wrong’uns. She is now looking to add more variations to her repertoire and be ready for the ODI World Cup if it goes ahead.
“I plan to start working on a few variations like working on a flipper and topspinner,” Yadav said. “Flipper is much tougher and it will take me at least three-four months to perfect the ball.”