Bookosmia (B) : Tell us Poonam Yadav’s story. How did it all begin?
Manoj (M) : It was in 2006 (She was about 15 ) that Poonam’s father who was in the army got transferred to Agra from Gujarat. In 2007 she joined our sports academy to hone her skills. I was a fellow cricketer then and watched as she began with medium pace before switching to spin on the advice of our coach Mohd Ayub Khan Afghani. In 2010, I became her coach.
B : What was your first impression of Poonam?
M : When I first saw her, I got the impression that she was different from the others. She never compromised on her training. She would come in early morning and do her fitness and skill sessions for 7-8 hours everyday, no matter what. She is a hardworking and disciplined girl, hence the results.
B : Is training women cricketers any different from training men in terms of infrastructure, technique and diet?
M : In terms of training, there is no difference. This is a mixed training academy so the girls train shoulder-to-shoulder with the boys. They are all here by 6 am. Some girls cycle 15 kms to get here, others have taken up a PG accomodation far from home just so that they can train here. Fitness levels may be different but it is improving tremendously, as you know, the fitness standards to make it to the highest level of Indian cricket is very high these days. In fact, when you compare male and female budding cricketers, we see that females have more discipline and motivation at this stage, that’s an encouraging sign.
B : How did you deal with the parent’s apprehensions?
M : Cricket is a hard working game where you have to continuously put in the long yards, 8 hours a day, everyday. That is impossible without the involvement of the parent. The trainees who come to us are here with the support of their family. We all work together here as a team. This is where the role of a coach and mentor is crucial. Especially for female cricketers, a good mentor makes all the difference. There are distractions sometimes, like the mobile phone for instance, that’s when as coaches we have to be strict. I always give them the example of Poonam who till today does not spend much time on social media.
We are fortunate to have a mentor like former India cricketer Hemlata Kala who is always around as a valuable sounding board to the girls.
B : With Poonam becoming a national star, has anything changed for the other girls in the academy? How do you see their future?
M : We have 35 girls training with us at the moment, of which 15 are doing very well in different formats of cricket. Some are already playing under 19 and domestic cricket. They are excited to see Poonam’s rise and it has motivated them to keep focusing on their game.
B : How do you train the players for international pitches, which would be different from our Indian ones?
M : We train the players depending on the conditions- whether hot or cold. When Poonam had to play in NZ, we set up a table fan to give her training for the swing that she has to encounter there. Former Indian spinner Narendra Hirwani’s insights were of great help. We often reach out to other coaches so our players can benefit.
B : Now, the big question,what is your take on the final tomorrow?
M : It’s going to be a pressure match. Australia lost their first match against India so they will be under more pressure. What we need is an excellent performance from at least two of our players. We have a great combination this time and the team that manages the pressure better will win.
B : Your message for Poonam and the team
M : Poonam, you will do well. You are the highest wicket taker. Just enjoy and play your natural game.
Thank you to Mr Manoj Khushwaha for this amazing insight into one of our best sportspersons. We hope his girls continue to shine bright for India. Have any comments or questions on our T20 cricket coverage? Tell us in the comments section! See you tomorrow for more coverage on the T20 world cup!