10th standard board exams or U19 World Cup? What will Sonam Yadav choose? This wily left-arm spinner from Uttar Pradesh was the leading wicket-taker in the recently concluded U19 T20 Challengers Trophy. She picked up seven wickets in four matches, including one four-wicket haul. Riding on her success in the domestic competition, she was selected in India A for the quadrangular series that will also feature India B, West Indies, and Sri Lanka.
Sonam Yadav shares the role of her elder brother in making her a professional cricketer, her dreams of winning the U19 World Cup, and many more with Female Cricket.
When did you start playing cricket?
I started playing in 2017 when I was around eight years old. It was because of my brother I started playing the sport. Initially, I played in my neighborhood with the boys. But when my brother saw that I was giving a tough fight to the boys, he decided to enrol me in a cricket academy. He was a cricketer himself, but due to some reasons, he could not continue with the sport. However, when he saw me playing the game, he wanted me to make it big. I joined District Cricket Academy in Firozabad and trained under Ravi Yadav sir. At that time, there were no girls in the academy. I was the only one. All the boys there supported me and made me comfortable. When I joined the academy, I was very nervous, but slowly and steadily, I settled in, thanks to the other players.
With your elder brother, Aman, standing strong behind you, did you enjoy support from your parents?
Though my brother was always there for me, my parents were initially a bit skeptical about me pursuing cricket. The mentality of the people in the society was such that they wanted the girls to be at home and not out playing sports. Maybe my parents were affected by what society said. Once I started playing for Uttar Pradesh, my parents realized my potential and started appreciating my game. However, I am glad that my brother was unscathed by this, and he supported me. To date, my brother trains me in batting and fitness in the mornings, and I practice at District Cricket Academy in the evenings.
When did you first play for Uttar Pradesh?
I made my debut for Uttar Pradesh U19 in 2018. A year after I joined District Cricket Academy, I was selected for the state team. I was excited and nervous at the same time since there were many senior players in the side. However, it was clear in my head that I had to give my best whenever I got a chance to play. I bowled well in the T20 tournament and picked up three wickets against Andhra in the finals to help Uttar Pradesh win the championship. Soon after, I made my one-day debut for Uttar Pradesh and played ZCA (Zonal Cricket Academy) matches.
Who is your role model?
I have always looked up to Ravindra Jadeja. I like his bowling accuracy and pace variations.
Spin bowling is an art, and there are chances that you can get it wrong. Did you face any challenges while bowling?
Yes, there was a period when I was not getting more than one or two wickets in a match. Usually, I am a wicket-taking bowler, and during one such period, I was not getting it right. The batters were not taking risks against me. They played me cautiously, so I could not get the better of them. I had a word with my coach and my brother. Both of them insisted that I should not overthink it. They asked to add variations to my bowling. That is when I included arm ball in my repertoire. After that, I became a better bowler and was again back among plenty of wickets.
Another challenge you have is choosing between your 10th standard board exams and World Cup preparations. So, what will you pick?
(Smiles) World Cup, for sure. Fortunately, my parents are not pressurising me to study. On the other hand, they are encouraging me to devote time to cricket and do well in the sport.
On the back of your success in the U19 T20 Challengers Trophy, in which you finished as the leading wicket-taker, you were selected for India A, which will play a Quadrangular series including India B, West Indies, and Sri Lanka. How does it feel?
I feel pleased and proud that I have reached this stage. I am very excited to play against the West Indies and Sri Lanka. May either India A or India B win the series. I hope to give my best in this tournament and feature for India in the New Zealand series lined up next and the U19 T20 World Cup that will be played in South Africa in January next year.
With the inaugural ICC Women’s U19 T20 World Cup just a stone’s throw away, how excited are you for it? When did you come to know about it?
I think it was towards the end of 2021 that I learned about the U19 T20 World Cup that will be happening in South Africa in 2023. Since then, I have been training hard and preparing well for the marquee tournament. I am eagerly looking forward to it and hope I get a chance to represent India in the World Cup.
I am a former cricketer having represented Mumbai University at All India University level. I was a part of MCA probables for the U-19 and U-23 age group. I have been an avid cricket writer for the last five years. Currently I am pursuing my Ph.D from IIT Bombay.