After going wicketless in seven ODIs across three years since her debut, India all-rounder Pooja Vastrakar has returned to the national set-up as an X-factor player who aces multiple roles.
Vastrakar was instrumental with bat and ball in India’s jittery four-wicket win in the first ODI against Sri Lanka in Pallekale. The 22-year-old believes the visitor will head into Monday’s clash with the mindset to serve another all-round performance. “Our approach will be the same as the first ODI. We want to win the series 3-0 by dominating the opposition. We aim to execute all of our plans and seal the series tomorrow,” Vastrakar said during a media interaction on Sunday.
While Vastrakar was at her economic best in the T20I series against the Lankans in Dambulla, she returned with figures of two for 26 in the first ODI where Chamari Athapaththu’s side was reduced to 171. In reply, India suffered a top-middle order collapse before Vastrakar (21* off 19) took the visitor home with a thumping six, with Deepti Sharma (22* off 41) for company.
With skipper Harmanpreet Kaur in full faith of the youngster, Vastrakar shed light on her role in the new-look ODI squad. “I play as a bowling all-rounder, the third-seamer who also plays as a lower middle-order batter. I am working on these facets. Be it bowling or batting: I bowl after the PowerPlay or maybe a couple of overs in it, so I am working on my variations accordingly. Similarly in the lower-middle order, my focus is on finding a balance between playing the aggressor and rotating the strike with ones and twos.
“I have been spending a lot of time with the batting and bowling coaches. I have not had a lot of match experience, so I rely on their experience and have gained a lot from it. They have backed me by saying that I am capable of delivering when the situation arises. Whatever I have spoken off the field with them, I have implemented it on the ground and found the reward,” Vastrakar added.
Known for her powerful strokes with the bat, Vastrakar is polishing her armoury by developing the helicopter shot to counter slow yorkers. “I have been trying it, but I stopped it for a while because it’s not good enough to be brought into a game situation (laughs). I don’t want to give my wicket away to a false stroke. I am now working on it with Hrishikesh Kanitkar sir (batting coach).”
The Madhya Pradesh star also credited the influence of seasoned coach Chandrakant Pandit, who recently led the state to its first Ranji Trophy title. “Chandu sir was our head coach during the Senior Women’s T20 tournament this year. He was giving inputs on how to take the game deeper, and it was with that guidance we were able to take the fight until the last ball against Railways while trying to defend 124 runs in the group stage. The way he gave insights on field placement, to increase our tempo according to the situation and unleash our trump cards at the right time, it has helped me in the long run,” Vastrakar said.
India will seek its first ODI series win since November 2019 under newly-appointed skipper Harmanpreet on Monday, and Vastrakar could emerge as the thorn for the host once again.