Perseverance, zeal and a positive attitude can take you a long way and this 19-year-old Baroda cricketer is a testimony of the same. At the age most of us couldn’t even manage just studying, she was excelling in both academics and sports and is an inspiration for aspiring cricketers around the world. She is someone who believes a lot in planning and preparation.
Baroda’s wicketkeeper batter Yastika Bhatia has been a consistent performer in the domestic circuit and has impressed everyone with her run-scoring and wicketkeeping abilities, which also earned her a place in India A women’s team for the tour of Bangladesh and the ACC Emerging Women’s Asia Cup.
Yastika Bhatia, in an exclusive chat with Female Cricket, talks about her cricket journey, her experience playing for India A and her idol Jemimah Rodrigues.
1. You’ve just returned from a very successful Emerging Asia Cup outing for the country. How was the experience?
I got to learn a lot on this tour, and before that in India A’s tour of Bangladesh too. My performance was good and I consistently gave a good start to the team. Playing these matches gave me a lot of exposure, like the Asia Cup final. That was a very close game! Playing such matches, it teaches you how to have control of your nerves. I really enjoyed playing in both these series. Plus, you get to learn from the seniors and their experiences as to how they handle tough situations.
2. Tell us something about your initial days and how you were introduced to cricket?
I was always into sports! My father made my sister and I join a cricket academy when I was 8 and that’s when I started practicing. At this academy, we used to train with the boys and the Baroda selectors noticed us. That’s how we got into the state team. At 11 years of age, I had played for the Senior State team too. My father was very particular that we have to play at least one sport, any sport of our choice – he was more inclined towards cricket though, and that’s how my interest in the game grew too.
3. What other sports did you participate in?
Cricket, Karate, Swimming, Badminton – I used to play and do it all. I’m a black belt in Karate and have played at the state level.
4. What role has your family played in your journey?
My parents have been super supportive. Like I said, my father, pushed me to play. It was his dream. In 12th grade, I had opted for science, which isn’t a cakewalk. I had to attend school, coaching classes plus work on my fitness and play cricket. My father made a proper schedule for me and I used to follow that, which helped me a lot. Even my mom has been very supportive.
5. As a teenager, how difficult was it to create a balance between being a student and a professional cricketer?
My father always told me that when you’re playing cricket, do just that and don’t even think about studying, and vice versa. That thought stuck with me and helped me focus on both. As I said, he made a schedule for me. In the off-season, I finished my portion so that when the season began I could focus on cricket. I scored 89% in my 12th-grade boards so everything worked out well.
6. You were the only one from Vadodara to attend the National Cricket Academy (NCA) camp this year. How was that experience?
It was great, I enjoyed a lot! All our coaches were very supportive and helped us improve in every aspect. My mental space improved a lot at this camp. Even the practice games were competitive – everyone came from different states and everyone had that hunger to represent India, that sort of competition you don’t see anywhere else and it tremendously improves you. I improved fitness-wise too.
7. How has the Baroda Cricket Association contributed to your journey?
They have been extremely helpful. Over the past few years, the facilities they provide have improved too. We have video analysts now accompanying us. The selectors, coaches, everyone – they all wish the best for us and push us to do better.
8. What do you enjoy doing off the field?
Chilling with friends! (laughs). I love watching movies too. I don’t have a favorite actor as such but I really like some of Shah Rukh Khan’s movies.
9. Do you face pre-match anxiety/pressure? How do you deal with it?
Not really. Even if I get those thoughts, I have always believed that your hard work counts. If you’ve worked hard enough, you’ll play well and if you haven’t, you won’t. I remind that to myself if I get such thoughts. After all, I can only control what’s in my hands so I try to focus just on that.
10. Who from the team do you bond with even off the field?
Radha Yadav and Pragya from my state team. Actually, if you see, I bond with everyone from my state team. We practice together all the time so we have created this bond over time.
11. Baroda reached the Semi-Finals of the Senior Women’s T20, how was it to reach that stage with such a young side?
It was a complete team effort and a great tournament for us all. We are all still learning though, and getting better with time. I hope we get to lift the trophy next year!
12. Was it initially daunting to face the seniors when you got into the India ‘A’ team?
I don’t think so, because they mixed well with us. They never treated us like we were their juniors. If you see, the age gap isn’t that much either. So it wasn’t daunting. In fact, they were very welcoming, and I am thankful to them.
13. Who did you idolize as a cricketer when you first started playing?
I always followed Smriti Mandhana’s game, I wanted to play like her. Smriti and Jemimah Rodrigues. But over time I’ve come to realize that I want to play like me and create my own identity. From the men’s team, Virat Kohli is my all-time favorite.
14. What is your ultimate career goal?
First, to wear the Indian jersey and then lift the world cup for my team. The Indian Women’s cricket team has never won a world cup so that’s something I would like to do.
15. How do you think Women’s Cricket can be further promoted in India?
I think BCCI is doing very well as of now. Even our Domestic Senior T20 semifinal games were televised, which was great. Maybe India ‘A’ tours can increase and the Women’s games can happen more frequently – from personal experience I can say coming back from international tours gives one a lot of confidence. Plus, of course, the women’s IPL.
16. What do you think about our initiative – Female Cricket? We would appreciate your suggestions.
You guys are doing such a great job. I remember first seeing the Instagram page and it had an equal focus on both domestic and international players, this gives so much exposure to the domestic players. I used to read these interviews and think “One day even my interview will come” and that actually happened today! (laughs) Continue with the same focus on domestic cricketers and keep promoting women’s cricket the way you do.
It’s very rare to come across someone so mature and clear about her career and game at Yastika’s age. She’s an inspiration to so many girls out there and we wish her the best for all her future games and hope her ultimate goal comes true.