The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the sporting world to a grinding halt. As athletes are forced to abandon their favourite sport and remain confined within their homes, in this series, the indianexpress.com speaks to the members of the Indian national women’s cricket team to find out their thoughts on the game and how they are coping with corona.
In Chandigarh, India’s wicket-keeper batswoman Taniya Bhatiya had been looking forward to the break from the game after almost three months of non-stop cricket. But little did she know that it would extend way beyond that.
“Before the lockdown, we had a long season with camps, a tri-series and then the World Cup. At the time, my thoughts were revolving around going back home and getting to spend some quality time with my family, but I never expected it will be this long.”
However, for the pocket-size dynamite, the lockdown has given her the perfect opportunity to tap into something new. “With our changing lifestyle due to the coronavirus, I decided there was no way I would waste my time and that is when I decided to do something different from my usual routine and I started practising yoga,” said Bhatia.
“Soon I realized it was actually making a difference to my game. Being a wicketkeeper, I need to be agile and flexible. But the body tends to become stiff after playing without rest and sometimes this can also lead to rounded shoulders. Yoga made me fitter and stronger and brought more flexibility. I can now cover a wider range on the ground. Not to mention that it also reduces mental stress,” she added.
In a spin-heavy Indian squad, Bhatiya holds her own with her glovework. Selected to play for India A at 16, she had become the first woman cricketer from Chandigarh to enter the national team.
Wicketkeeping though was in her genes.
“My father Sanjay Bhatia was a wicket-keeper and was a reserve player for Punjab and my uncle was also a wicketkeeper. I guess it is in the blood. Since I was eight years old I was inclined towards keeping,” Bhatia said, adding, “Adam Gilchrist was my idol while growing up. I was in class 8 when I met him while he was playing for Kings XI Punjab in the IPL. KXIP were having a practice session and he was kind enough to come up and talk to me.”
Bhatia’s sharp work behind the stumps has often been compared to the lightning-quick glovework of MS Dhoni by fans. Speaking on this, she said, “Actually last year during the Women’s IPL, I had effected a stumping while Sophie Devine was bowling. It was my favourite moment and a friend of mine had sent a screenshot saying ‘This is Dhoni style’.”
WATCH: Taniya does an MS Dhoni
— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) May 11, 2019
“There is absolutely no comparison but it is flattering when people say they can see a glimpse of him in me. In fact, it inspires me to work harder. I look up to him and his hand-eye co-ordination is admirable,” said the 22-year-old who has already featured in 50 T20Is and 15 ODIs for India
“Perfection matters to me a lot and in an international match where this so much pressure there is absolutely no way you can think about second chances. Standing up to pacers is something that I have done since I started playing domestic cricket.
“I was never scared and loved challenges and that is probably why people call me fearless. I have been working hard on my skills and that has reaped benefits.”
“Now my motto is to make an impact for the team and win them games.”
Bhatia, who earned her India cap in 2018, stood out for her brilliant work behind the stumps in this year’s T20 World Cup as well. As India beat defending champions Australia in the opening game of the ongoing T20 World Cup, Bhatia was involved in four dismissals. However, she did miss a stumping opportunity which denied leg-spinner Poonam Yadav a memorable hattrick.
“Poonam Yadav and I get along pretty well and now I can read her hand pretty well. I was trying to concentrate more than usual because it was a hat-trick ball and probably that was why I missed that. Of course, I felt bad for her, and vowed I would make it up to her.”
Despite Team India facing defeat in the final against the Aussies, Bhatia says the women in blue have got better at handling different situations.
“In the last 12 to 14 months, we have improved a lot as a unit. We’re in a really positive position. We’ve been playing well and I think we’ve got a lot better as a team and can work out how to handle and read situations well.”
Reflecting on the final, she said, “To be honest, when I entered the MCG it was a blur. But I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I wanted to savour the moment. The 86,000-plus crowd got me pumped up and I really enjoyed each moment.”
“This is something which I will miss if cricket is played in an enclosed arena. But just like we are getting used to everything, from social distancing to masks – I think we have to get used to cricket without crowds.”
The lockdown has proved to be a different ball-game altogether in terms of practising and keeping fit while staying inside four walls.
Bhatia thanks the Indian team management for all their help.
“I am constantly in touch with my coach WV Raman and in fact, the entire staff is in touch with the players.”
“I have ordered all the weights at home to do the weight training. There is also a park near my residence where I train at times when no is there. That is how I manage it. It’s difficult but I have got used to it.”
“For me, each practice session is important so that I can learn something new and that it does not go to waste. Whether it is standing up to the stumps for pacers or collecting wide balls. The goal is to make each practice session count,” she signed off.
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