Pooja Vastrakar is an Indian cricketer, who is known for her right-hand medium bowling and striking runs at lower order.
Pooja Vastrakar was born on Saturday, 25 September 1999 (age 23 years; as of 2022) in Shahdol, Madhya Pradesh. Her zodiac sign is Libra. She did her schooling at Gyanodya Higher Secondary School. Pooja wanted to play cricket just like the boys of her locality in Shahdol. In an interview, she said,
I was a good gully cricketer, so I urged my sister to help me get into an academy. She went around the town to find one, but came back to say that none of them trained girls. So I left thinking about it.”
After breaking too many windows and losing various balls while playing in the colony, the children decided to play in the ground facilities of one of the cricket academies nearby, which remained unused in the morning. She was good at gully cricket. In an interview, she said,
Ek do overs hi milte hain, aur main woh ek do overs mein hi kuch na kuch kamaal kar deti thi (I’d get only one or two overs but I’d do something amazing in them),”
One such day, she was noticed by her coach, Ashutosh Shrivastava, who decided to give her formal training for cricket. In an interview, Vastrakar revealed,
We used to play 4-over games. As luck would have it, on one of the days when it was my turn to bat, I hit a few sixes, one guy spotted me. He came and asked me if I was interested to join the academy and took me to Ashutosh Shrivastav, who has been my coach since then.”
Srivastava started giving her training at his academy, Gulmohar Cricket Academy, which was an all-boys facility. Vastrakar was the only girl who took training there.
Height (approx.): 5′ 6″
Weight (approx.): 65 kg
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
Vastrakar’s father, Bandhan Ram Vastrakar, is a retired employee of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). Her mother died when Pooja was merely ten years old. Pooja is the youngest of her seven siblings, which include four sisters and two brothers. Her elder sister, Usha Vastrakar, is a national-level sprinter.
Pooja follows Hinduism and worships Lord Ganesha.
- 2nd most runs in an innings (by batting at 8th position) – 67 runs of 59 balls in IND Women vs PAK Women at Mount Maunganui in ICC Women’s World Cup on 6 Mar 2022.
- The highest partnership for the seventh wicket or lower in Women’s ODIs – 122 runs in IND Women vs PAK Women at Mount Maunganui in ICC Women’s World Cup on 6 Mar 2022. It is also the first-century stand for the seventh wicket or lower at Women’s World Cups.
- The first pair to score the fifties in the same innings in women’s ODIs while batting at No. 7 or lower – in IND Women vs PAK Women at Mount Maunganui in ICC Women’s World Cup on 6 Mar 2022.
- The second batter with multiple fifty-plus scores while batting at No. 8 and lower in women’s ODIs.
- The first batter to score a fifty while batting at No. 9 or lower – against Australia in 2018.
- 3rd most runs in an innings (by batting at 8th position) – 37 runs of 26 balls in IND Women vs AUS Women at Carrara in India Women tour of Australia on 9 Oct 2021.
- 2nd highest partnership for the tenth wicket – 37 runs in IND Women vs AUS Women at Carrara in India Women tour of Australia on 9 Oct 2021.
Pooja Vastrakar has played for the Rewa division as well as the Shahdol division in Madhya Pradesh and Central Zone. Since she was the only woman cricketer in the Rewa division, most parts of her practice took place with the boys. By the time she turned 13, she was playing for the state under-19 side. A year later, she was named in Madhya Pradesh’s senior team. She made her debut in major domestic cricket in a Twenty20 match against Odisha on 9 March 2013. Initially, Pooja started with batting. In a conversation with the media, Pooja disclosed that when the coach asked the team to divide based on batters and bowlers, she identified herself as a batter and stood in the line with the rest of them; however, she injured her ring finger mistakenly with a door’s hinge and could not bat for a few days. At that moment, her coach asked her to try bowling and eventually she switched to bowling. At the age of 15, she became a part of the India Green Women Squad.
In October 2018, she was named in India’s squad for the 2018 ICC Women’s World Twenty20 tournament in the West Indies; however, she was ruled out of the tournament due to an injury, which she suffered in a warm-up match. She made her Women’s One Day International cricket (WODI) debut for India Women against South Africa Women on 10 February 2018, and she made her Women’s Twenty20 International cricket (WT20I) debut for India Women against South Africa Women on 13 February 2018. The 2018 Challenger Trophy became a turning point in her career as it became the basis of her selection in the squad for the South Africa tour and also for her to be handed a central contract based on only six international appearances. In January 2020, she was named in India’s squad for the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia. Later, in May 2021, she was named in India’s Test squad for their one-off match against the England women’s cricket team. She made her Test debut against England on 16 June 2021. In January 2022, she was named in India’s team for the 2022 Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand. During the IND Women vs PAK Women at Mount Maunganui in ICC Women’s World Cup on 6 Mar 2022, Pooja played an instrumental role in the victory of the team and was also given the title of the Player of the Match.
In an interview, she relived her mindset and the scenario of the match. She said,
When I walked in, Charu di (Rana) was set and she told me that only the two of us were left to make amends, so we must play out the full 50 overs,”
I had a feeling from within that we must try to set 180-200 as a target, so we started playing with that goal in mind. But we were aware that if we could get ourselves set, we could score more … Given we had very few wickets in hand, we decided we would deal in only doubles and singles till the 45th-over mark, and we’d go for the charge only in the last five overs.”
In IND Women vs NZ Women at Hamilton in ICC Women’s World Cup on March 10, 2022, Pooja showcased her brilliant performance yet again and took a total of 4 wickets. She impressed everybody with her one-handed throw which resulted in New Zealand’s Suzie Bates getting run out. She also made headlines for hitting the biggest six of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2022 against Australia, which was a massive 81-metre big hit.
— The Bridge (@the_bridge_in) March 19, 2022
BSNL colony, Shahdol, Madhya Pradesh
- Pooja Vastrakar’s nickname is Chhoti and is often called Chota Hardik because of the similarities between her and Hardik Pandya including the way of picking up the ball and launching it.
- Pooja has been nicknamed ‘Babloo’ by her India captain and ‘Babulal’ by the team’s fielding coach and her teammates. In an interview, she revealed,
Hardik Pandya had streaked his hair blue recently, so Mithu di (Mithali Raj) gave him the nickname ‘Bablue/Babloo’. And, then, she started calling me the same kyunki woh mujhe chhota Hardik Pandya bulaatey hain (because they call me junior Hardik Pandya).”
- In an interview, the India fielding coach, Biju George, expressed his rationale behind giving Vastrakar the nickname ‘Babulal’. He said,
Have you seen those videos of dogs barking the lions away? That’s Babulal. Pooja reminds me of a guy who was all skin and bones, but, at the same time, all fight.”
- Reportedly, Pooja used to play cricket with a laundry stick or wooden strap during her childhood days with the boys of her locality.
- She often credits playing at an all-boys facility for a seamless transition into the women’s game.
- In an interview, Vastrakar revealed her bouncer practice and its relation with Indian cricketer Suresh Raina. She said,
When I went to the NCA for an Under-19 camp in 2015, the wicket at the end was quite green. I had read two months earlier that [Suresh] Raina had been struggling against the bouncer, and must have been at the NCA to work on that. I wondered if it was the same wicket where he had honed his game against the bouncer. The ball was rising nicely, so I thought, ‘All right, let me try out a bouncer here’. Then even on flat wickets I started bowling it. In the domestic games, I started bowling one almost every over, first or second ball.”
- Vastrakar takes inspiration from cricketer, Jhulan Goswami, and she aspires to be like her. In an interview, she said,
But as a female cricketer, Jhulu di (Jhulan Goswami) has been a role model. From the beginning I have seen her, have read about her; she is such a consistent bowler. She backs me a lot and tells me, ‘This is how you must use the non-bowling arm. If you try, you can bump up your speed to 120-125kmph. Unko dekhke chalna hai aur unke jaisa banna hai (I want to follow her path and become like her).”
- In 2016. before India’s tour of Australia, Pooja suffered a lower-back injury that put her out of contention for a place in the squad. She admitted that it was because of prolonged neglect on her part.
- Later, she sprained her leg just before the home series against Sri Lanka which shelved her chances of a national call-up.
- In October 2016, while Vastrakar was fielding during a senior women’s domestic one-dayer between MP and Punjab, her knee got twisted leading to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear for which she had to undergo knee surgery. This further deferred her national call-up.
- Reportedly, Pooja maintained her self-confidence and courage in her tough times by watching motivational videos of the speaker, Sandeep Maheshwari, and Olympians on YouTube and Facebook.
- When her coach, Srivastava, heard of Pooja’s knee injury, he was devastated. In an interview, he recalled,
When she twisted her knee and had to get the surgery done in January last year, I was the one who was depressed,”
But Pooja was confident she’d get through it all. When she returned home, after getting some 15-20 days of rest and her rehab, her zeal to make it to the Indian side only got stronger.”
- After successfully recovering from her injury, Pooja focused on all the positives and attributed her increased pace from 105 kmph to around 110 kmph to her post-surgery assessment of her bowling.
- In May 2022, Vastrakar appeared as a guest in the comedy talk show, The Kapil Sharma Show, on Sony TV.
- Hailing from a middle-class background, Pooja aims to support her family financially. Her father revealed in an interview that apart from helping her father she also contributed a large amount of money to her sister’s marriage from her income.
- Pooja revealed in a media conversation that she earned Rs.1200 per domestic match for U19 game. She collected around Rs.15000 from the U19 matches and purchased an English Willow bat worth Rs.4500 and a pair of studs worth Rs.1200 with that money since she had no sponsorships back then. She said that she never asked her father to spend money on her cricket equipment because she did not want to put the burden on him.
- In an interview, while talking about her transition from being a batter to a bowler and then again contributing to victories with her bat, she said,
I want to be known as an allrounder who excels in all three departments, in every sense of the term. When people talk of me as an allrounder, I’d like them to say, “Pooja ko sab kuch aata hai, aur acchi tarah se aata hai (Pooja can do everything, and she’s good at everything).”