Women’s cricket is going to be played for the first time at the CWG and there is palpable excitement about this Tam Inia doing what the men’s team in the 1998 edition in Kuala Lumpur couldn’t – win a medal.
Yastika, a 21-year-old middle order batter and wicket-keeper from Gujarat, is part of the India squad as the first-choice keeper and is confident that India will shine in their maiden women’s cricket appearance at the Commonwealth Games.
TimesofIndia.com caught up with Yastika, who has played one Test, 16 ODIs, and 5 T20Is for India so far, to talk about India’s gold medal chances in the CWG, their group, receiving her debut cap from the legendary Mithali Raj, and much more…
The Indian women’s cricket team is set to compete at their first Commonwealth Games. What, according to you, are the chances of winning a medal?
I am pretty excited about the Commonwealth Games. We all attended a fitness camp recently. We are all prepared and ready for the event. Our squad is very strong. We are excited as this is our maiden CWG. This is a big opportunity for all of us to bring a gold medal for our country. We have not left a single stone unturned during practice or the net sessions. We are all super excited. Of course, we will go for the gold medal. We have a young squad and we are full of energy. We have been playing good cricket. Our captain Harmanpreet Kaur always leads from the front. I am confident she will take India to a gold medal win.
India are in Group A alongside Pakistan, Australia and Barbados. The most amount of excitement of course is for the India vs Pak clash on July 31…
It will be a very good match (India vs Pakistan). We can’t take any team lightly. All the matches are important for us. We are excited about all the matches. We all want to take it one match at a time. All I want to say is that we are all prepared and ready to face any team. The best team on that given day will go and win the match. I am looking forward to the challenge. I am sure our team will do well.
Image credit: Twitter
You are the first-choice wicket-keeper for the CWG ahead of Taniya Bhatia. Are you ready for this big challenge?
I always wanted to play for India. Wearing an India jersey is a very big thing. It’s a dream for any cricketer. I wanted to play for India but more than that I want to win every match for my team. I want to be a finisher. I always go out to the middle with a winning mindset. I want to be a player who has the ability to pull the team out of trouble in a given situation. I want to be an every format and every situation player. I want to give my best and 100 percent at the CWG. There are many people who have played a big role in my career. My parents, support staff, seniors, and coaches – I am here because of them. I am really thankful to them. They have supported me a lot.
Who is your inspiration and why?
My parents. They have inspired me a lot. Their support has been immense and without that, I wouldn’t be here. They have supported me throughout my career. They never said ‘no’ to me and fulfilled all my desires with a smile. I admire Smriti Mandhana in cricket because she is also a left-hander. She is a fearless cricketer and that’s why I admire her. It is a privilege to share the dressing room with her. Playing alongside her is a dream come true for me. Off the field, I ask her a lot of questions and she is happy to answer them and help me. I have learned a lot from her. She is a positive cricketer and gives smart suggestions. I like to be around her and learn from her.
Image credit: BCCI Women
How did you first start playing cricket?
From the age of 6 to 12, I played for fun, just like every other kid. My parents saw me play and met Purnima ma’am (childhood coach) and that’s how it started. Purnima ma’am guided me from the beginning. She said I have talent and that I needed guidance. She told my parents, when I was 13, that I will play for India. Today, I am really proud that I proved her right. Wearing the India jersey was the only thing on my mind.
You were handed your India debut cap by Mithali Raj…
It was a priceless moment. I was emotional when Mithali didi gave me my debut cap ahead of the toss (India vs Australia T20I in Mackay on September 21, 2021). It was an emotional and proud moment for me. I had that dream for a long time and it finally came true. I just can’t describe that feeling in words. That moment gave me so much energy. We were playing against Australia so there was more energy inside me.
Inside the dressing room, does the team miss Mithali Raj?
Obviously, there is a void. It is very difficult to fill her shoes. Being a senior and a player with an abundance of experience, she encouraged and guided everyone. All of us miss her.