“When I was younger, I was the only girl who used to play cricket with boys. All my guy friends would tease me and ask why I insisted on playing with them. In fact, some of them would even come to my house and tell my mother to not send me to play.”
The brunt of sexism weighed in on a young Poonam while growing up in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, where even though her inclination towards sports was evident throughout her childhood, her short stature and identity as a female kept her from being allowed to play.
She began training at a stadium at the mere age of eight, but was disallowed by her father owing to societal pressure. It was only when she ran away to the stadium one day and brought her coach, Hemlata Kala, that her father was convinced with difficulty.
Never looking back, she was selected for the Central Zone team and then the Uttar Pradesh team. Even though some bad performances made her want to quit cricket entirely, she emerged during her tenure with the Railways, which she considered her turning point. She made her ODI and T20 debut in 2013, and is currently India’s highest wicket taker in WT20s.
Standing just above five feet, Poonam can be hard to notice on the field, but when she comes on to bowl, it is she who steals all the attention.Delivering the ball high and baffling the batsmen almost always, Poonam Yadav manages to lure the batsmen into gifting their wicket, which are mostly through stumpings.
She was a part of the World Cup squad in 2017 and was also the highest wickettaker for India in the World T20 in 2018. She is also an Arjuna Awardee.
In the recently concluded World T20, she rose to the limelight in the very first match, where she helped India defend a score of merely 132 against a formidable Australian team.
Crossing the various barriers that hit her during her life, Poonam chose to take advantage of her height and take the positives from the jabs she received, making her one of the best leg spinners in the cricketing circuit today.