Monday, October 3, 2022

ICC: Vastrakar a rising star made for the big stage

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Pooja Vastrakar’s shy nature in front of the camera betrays a fierce competitor that is made for the big stage.

Her performance against New Zealand, which ended in a 62-run defeat, saw her take four for 34 and breathe life back into a wilting India.

The 22-year-old’s first act would set the scene for the day. Suzie Bates fresh off a 79 not out at her home ground was run out thanks to a direct hit from Vastrakar to put a spanner in the works for the hosts.

Sophie Devine was not following the script however as she sent both Meghna Singh and Jhulan Goswami for back-to-back fours.

Devine would pick up another boundary as Vastrakar’s story hit its first bump in the road, she did not get down in time for a regulation stop with the New Zealand captain on 29.

Then came the redemption arc as Vastrakar was given the ball two overs later. The right-arm medium pacer was bowling for the first time in the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup having missed India’s bowling innings against Pakistan with a slight injury.

Skipper Devine was forced to go for 35 from 30 as she sent an edge to wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh, Vastrakar delighted to pick up a big scalp.

New Zealand continued motoring along as Amy Satterthwaite picked up where Devine left off, with the eminently capable Amelia Kerr beside her.

Kerr’s 50, her first in a World Cup, came just before she was dismissed by Rajeshwari Gayakwad while Satterthwaite would hang around a lot longer, this time with Katey Martin in the supporting role.

With New Zealand on 221 for four, Vastrakar could not hold on to a high ball despite being comfortably set underneath it.

The crowd reacted with a gasp as if in a theatre rather than a cricket ground, but it only spurred Vastrakar on for one more shot at redemption.

And she delivered her lines perfectly, dismissing Satterthwaite for 75 as she sent the ball straight to Mithali Raj at midwicket.

Vastrakar wasn’t done yet, though. In the 47th over with New Zealand frustrated as their chance at a mammoth total slipped away, she took two wickets in two balls.

First bowling the explosive Lea Tahuhu for one before yorking Jess Kerr the very next ball to leave New Zealand on 240 for eight, the quiet Vastrakar letting out a roar.

She ended on four for 34, a new best in ODIs to back up her best batting performance for India against Pakistan – a star well and truly on the rise.

New Zealand would get home with one wicket remaining to set India a target of 261 to win, still a record chase in an ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup after New Zealand and England had both fallen short earlier in the tournament.

Vastrakar had left the field before the end of the bowling innings and came into bat at eight, one place lower than against Pakistan where she had made 67 to set up victory.

It was New Zealand’s sharp bowling rather than her injury that meant she was not able to guide India to an improbable victory, arriving with her team on 127 for six needing 134 from 88 balls to win.

Instead, she was caught by Devine in the deep for six, revenge of sorts, as India slumped to 198 all out, 62 runs short of their target and succumbing to a first loss.

The defeat is a reminder that cricket is not a film but real life, but for Vastrakar it doesn’t seem to matter, she is writing her own story.

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