Radha Yadav, Another Jewel Of Hand-picked By The Bylanes Of Mumbai > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Radha Yadav: Another gem handpicked from the bylanes of Mumbai
In the summer of 2013, when Indian cricket was mired in the spot-fixing controversy and a political narrative around 'ache din aayenge' (better days will come) began to take shape, in the by-lanes of Mahaveer Nagar in Mumbai's western suburbs, something special caught Praful Naik's eye while he was taking his niece to cricket coaching. He had been noticing children play in the building everyday, but a little curiosity on one summer evening forced him to walk up to a vegetable vendor nearby and enquire - "Where does that girl stay?"
Omprakash Yadav, the vendor, amused by the enquiry shot back, "She is my daughter. What happened?"
"She plays well," Naik remarked. "Would she like to join my coaching classes?"
Yadav, who lived in a mere 200 square-feet house with eight other family members, appreciated the compliment but added, "I don't have money to take care of the expenses."
Naik convinced him that none of that would be needed and ensured the journey would be seamless from thereon. He went home and asked his daughter Gayatri, who was playing under-19 cricket in Mumbai then, to pass on her old kit and cricket whites to the 13-year old Radha Yadav.
He was impressed by the first looks of his ward, especially the manner in which she caught and threw the leather ball. He believed he had discovered someone special and egged Radha's father to change her school. The expenses were beyond Omprakash, but he trusted Naik to do whatever was in his means to aid his daughter's cricket.
Naik felt that moving her to Our Lady of Remedy school would be ideal, since it had a cricket team for girls. However, the 'she will play for India one day' proclamation wasn't enough to convince the school's Principal. After all, several students are brought in with the same promise and only rarely does one live up to it.
It took months of convincing, and only after the academic year started, did the persuasion eventually bear fruit.
Radha herself dismisses the challenges of the journey being anything but a jolly good ride. "There were challenges but no pressure on me," she claims. It is a testimony to the buffer that her support system has offered. The positivity that she emits even today is reflective of how they ensured there were no battle scars on the way.
Radha is still 18 - naive and honest, mixing the two overriding characteristics of her personality into something hilarious - often at the cost of awkwardness or embarrassment. There is an aura around her that's not in your face but yet hard to miss. It may not rattle anyone but can deflate the doubters. It transcends seamlessly from her personality into her game. When she is looking to swing her bat hard, tossing the ball up at her run up mark or simply gliding around on the field - the confidence is palpable.
"Assessment sahi hai (is right)," she testifies.
In a matter of five years, she has represented India in a T20 over World Cup and is being touted as one the brightest prospects of the future, alongside Jemimah Rodrigues. "It's sort of weird. We played our school cricket as rivals and today we find ourselves in the same team," she says about her bond with fellow teenager.
After swiftly moving up the ranks in Mumbai cricket, Radha suddenlty decided to switch base to to Baroda along with her coach in 2015. "What could I have done in Mumbai without him? Since he moved to Baroda, I also followed him."
The big dream, however, was realised at the start of 2018, when she was selected in India's squad for the South Africa series. It didn't start on a good note, with two ordinary performances on her maiden tour. Nonetheless, the selectors were willing to give the youngster a longer run.
"Pressure," she says of the apparent gap between playing domestic and international cricket. "In state cricket, if you misfield, there is no one to see you. So it is easy to let go. But in international cricket, when there are people watching, it becomes difficult to get yourself out of that thought. So the switch-on switch-off mode is extremely important there. In domestic cricket, it is fine even if you don't do that. If you're stuck in that thought, then it becomes difficult to continue. You have to let go off it. You have to bounce back."
She didn't standout in the home tri-series that followed against Australia and England, but had done fairly well to convince herself that she could be in with a serious chance of making it to the T20 WC later in the year. "I knew I had a good chance of making it to the World Cup squad but with more experienced players also in the running, there was no certainty."
The turning point for her career, however, came with the appointment of Ramesh Powar as the national team coach. In his first assignment, a 10-day camp at National Cricket Academy, he paid special attention to the spinners in the team. Of the lot, Radha impressed him immensely. Even as she detested bowling, she was quick to adapt to the lessons imparted by Powar. Her ability to execute the variations helped her case in overriding the more experienced slow left-armers in the country - Ekta Bisht and Rajeshwari Gayakwad - for a place in the side.
"I find bowling quite boring. I'm always waiting for my turn to bat. However, Ramesh sir convinced me that I needed to pay more attention to my bowling for the team's cause. The training I received in the camp helped me improve my action and also turn the ball more."
And for most parts of the 2018 T20 WC, it paid dividends as she finished as India's joint-highest wicket-taker in the campaign. The biggest reason, according to her, was the the confidence that was instilled with detailed planning and backed up by practice. It was a drastic change that was brought into the setup with the coming of Powar, something that was lacking in Indian women's cricket earlier.
"When I had made my debut in South Africa, there was no plan. I was simply given a field and asked to bowl. With Ramesh sir, we started to read the batters through the direction of their legs, the grip, etc. Even though team meetings were long, it was for the better.
"The planning and preparation helped our confidence. When you are sure of your plans, it helps you to do away with other thoughts that often come to your mind when there are no plans in place.
"Sir changed our mindset completely. We have the best skills in world cricket. Sir has helped us believe in ourselves to make sure we execute those skills and have an attitude to dominate."
The journey may have ended abruptly with a hurting loss against England in the semifinals but it remains a massive learning curve in Radha's young career. However, while she may have become India's No 1 left-arm spinner, it is her batting that she badly misses.
"I enjoy batting and fielding, anyone can bowl. I want to be known as a batsman who can bowl. And sir knew this. I think he purposely made me bat so late in the order so that I become so desperate for a chance that I excel whenever I get an opportunity," she says.
Soon after the T20 WC campaign got over, she was appointed as the captain of Baroda's state team. Darshan Mulherkar, Baroda's coach, believed that exposing her to a more responsible role at a young age will help her evolve better in the future.
"We had shortlisted three-four candidates to decide on the captain," Mulherkar explained. "While we didn't want Radha's game to suffer due to the added responsibility, you know when you look at certain players leading their side whether they can take that extra pressure or not. With Radha, we felt she thrived as a captain. Plus, her experience with the India team was always going to be beneficial."
Radha is enjoying her new role, or as puts it, "mujhe captaincy karna bachpan se pasand hai." (I've enjoyed captaining from a young age) She hasn't got a complete grip on her position as yet and she realises it. "When I'm leading the side I always things to happen my way, which cannot happen in a team game. I'm still working on it."
One of the players playing under her is Gayatri, her coach Praful Naik's daughter, who had gifted Radha her first kit. In a matter of less than half a decade, life has turned around drastically for Radha.
Only 18 years old and less than a year into international cricket, Radha Yadav expects everyone to know her story just like she expects everyone to know where she lives. She doesn't offer the fanciest of advertisements to Google Maps either when she claims, "In Mahaveer Nagar you just ask where Radha Yadav stays, they will tell you."
Her house and her father's vegetable stall, today, has become a landmark.
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