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EXCLUSIVE: “I Want To Become A Really Good And Quality All-Rounder” – S. Yashasri

In life, destiny often throws a curveball, nudging individuals onto unexpected paths that ultimately lead to greatness. S. Yashasri, a rising star in Indian cricket, epitomized this narrative as she candidly shared her journey from being an accidental cricketer to donning the prestigious Indian jersey.

“I wasn’t really interested in cricket initially,” Yashasri shared to Women’s CricInsight, reflecting on her early days. “It was just that I used to like playing all sports, and then my friend from school was captaining the cricket tournament. My friend was a cricketer at that time and he was also a state player. I really got inspired. I was like ‘Oh! You can play that well’. Then even I started playing cricket. This is how I started pursuing my career in cricket.”

What started as a casual interest soon evolved into a passion as Yashasri delved deeper into the sport, fueled by the encouragement of her family and peers.

“There were no restrictions or anyone who stopped me from playing,” she recalls. “I started at a very early stage and I think I was probably 14 years or 15 years. At that time, my parents felt that ‘She’s having fun, let her have fun’. But then I was doing well. So they were happy with it. Even with my friends and my family and coaches, everybody was like ‘She’s doing good.’ So it went on.”

Despite her humble beginnings, Yashasri harboured ambitions fueled by admiration for fellow cricketers.

“I don’t have specific role models, but there are many I admire,” she explains. “In my team [UP Warriorz], there’s TMac [Tahlia McGrath]. I really like her behaviour off the field. She’s very calm. She’s very productive in a way. She observes things and she just does it there on the ground. So I really like to take in that quality where I shut the external noise and then I just go on the field and just go bang bang.”

S Yashasri in action for the UP Warriorz [Image: Getty]
S Yashasri in action for the UP Warriorz [Image: Getty]
For Yashasri, cricket is more than just a sport—it’s a journey towards personal fulfillment and recognition. “Cricket, for me, is a goal I want to reach. It’s just an aim for me,” she asserted. “I have come so far in cricket that I just want to reach a stage where I want to accomplish the goals and like establish my name and become a star!”

Her breakthrough moment came during the ICC Women’s Under-19 T20 World Cup, where she represented India and left an indelible mark. “That was really fun! We actually had a lot of preparation going on before the World Cup and we prepared for one year. It was a year-long preparation filled with matches, filtration of players, then a lot of matches and just matches and camp,” she reminisces.

Reflecting more, she added, “It was hard because we had to get into that filtration process continuously and all the time people were getting filtered. So it was hard getting selected. But once when we were there, we had a lot of fun. It was such a good experience for us as young staff. We were it was our first international tour, the first India jersey and the first of everything. It was and for us to be experiencing all of that at a young age was a big thing and winning the World Cup as a team also!”

S Yashasri donning the India jersey during her U19 days [Image: BCCI]
S Yashasri donning the India jersey during her U19 days [Image: BCCI]

“I debuted for India. It was great” – S Yashasri

Here’s again when life took an unexpected turn for the youngster and she ended up making her debut in the U19 World Cup.

Speaking about it, she added, “So I wasn’t in the squad. I was in the standbys and then a girl got like a web cut or something. I was immediately in the squad and immediately into the playing 11. So when I got to know that I was in the squad and then the next moment I got to know I was in the 11. So that’s a big thing that coaches think I am worthy of playing in the 11. So they gave me a chance. But yeah, it was very good playing as Scotland. It was a very good experience. I debuted for India. It was great!”

Life took a decisive turn for Yashasri post the U19 World Cup, as she found herself drafted into the UP Warriorz for the Women’s Premier League.

“In my wildest dreams also I could have even imagined that they would have picked me because I was actually not expecting anyone to pick me. I’ve never played so many matches yet. I’ve not played for [the senior] India team as yet. I’ve only played one match against Scotland and then I was like, ‘Okay, if I’m there, I’m there. Otherwise, it’s okay. I’ll work hard.’ So I just came back to my routine,” she confesses.

Narrating the tale of when she received her news of selection she said, “I was in the gym when my Mom called me and she told me ‘UP Warriorz has picked you for your base price’. I was so happy. I was like, ‘Okay, thank you Amma’. I started working out again. No reaction. It was like that. I was really happy. I’m very grateful towards UP Warriorz for entrusting their faith in me and my abilities.”

Having been in the UP Warriorz ecosystem for two years, the youngster shares her experience saying, “Firstly, it’s a very great environment. The staff, all the owners and everyone is so good. They’re so welcoming and understanding. They never sideline you and they are very open. That’s the reason I’m very thankful and grateful that I’m in this franchise. But here it is very good.”

Under the mentorship of seasoned professionals like coach Jon Lewis and skipper Alyssa Healy, Yashasri honed her skills and broadened her perspective on the game. “Jon has a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge, which I gain from every sentence he says, there’s a positive thing where you learn in everything. He doesn’t point out and dwell on the negative much, but he tells us what we need to work on. He always stresses the positive, which keeps one motivated and he’ll say, ‘You’re doing well, you can do well.’ That’s the very good thing I have noticed in him,” she acknowledges.

“Our skipper Alyssa Healy is very fun-loving. She’s just like ‘Go for it. We’ll back you, just go for it’.”

Transitioning from junior to senior cricket presented its challenges, but Yashasri embraced the learning curve. “When I played for the U19 World Cup, it was only me playing at my strength. I only knew, “Aake ball tappe pe maarna hai, batting mai ball ko bahaar maarna hai aur fielding mai, ball ko sahi se pakadna hai bas” [Translates to “All I Knew was to get your line and length right and bowl in the right areas, while batting aim to hit big and catch the ball properly while fielding.”], she reflects.

She further remarked, “Here, when you get levelled up, there is a lot to learn last year at WPL [Women’s Premier League], I literally got some enlightened by the game by the way they speak. The game which I knew was nothing in front of them because they used to have such detailed conversations about everything. So I understood there’s a lot to learn more. This is not even like 50, not even like 40% I would do. So after last year, I really like that I got the knowledge about the game. I got to know what to do at what time. Mainly I think my mindset changed towards the game.”

Talking about some of her learnings and takeaways from the WPL, Yashasri shares candidly, “Mainly what I learnt is I used to feel very bad when I was like getting hit, when I was being expensive in my bowling. What I’ve learnt is cricket is all about hitting. It is a batter’s game. As bowlers, we dictate the play. The ball which we bowl they are going to react that way.”

What I learnt the first thing is don’t get affected by how they are hitting or what. If your execution is right, you are good. Even though it goes for a boundary or a six– it doesn’t matter.” 

Philosophically she adds, “At the end of the day, the execution is supposed to be right and you must be satisfied about how you bowl. That is the main thing I understood. I don’t know I’m not carrying out the records much. Like if I’m expensive or not. Overall I’m seeing if I’m bowling well or not. That is the main thing I understood and processed.”

Rubbing shoulders with legends in the UP Warriorz has given the youngster a lot of perspective and understanding of the game. Echoing sentiments of gratitude and learning, she said, “They are such big legends and they have worked hard to reach that level. I admire that about everybody Deepti [Sharma], Sophie [Ecclestone], Alyssa [Healy], TMac [Tahlia McGrath], and Grace [Harris]. I want to be like them. I want to come closer to them. So I am learning their hard work determination, mindset and whatever they carry and want to replicate.”

On a lighter note, spending two seasons with the UP Warriorz has given Yashasri a lot of memories and memorable moments with her extended family.

“There are many memories, compared to last year and this year. It has been much more fun. There are many domestic players added on this year. There were my friends Vrinda [Dinesh], Anjali [Sarvani], and Saima [Thakor] with whom I have created a really good bond. So we had a lot of fun. There were lots of memories that I’m not going to forget.”

With her U19 teammate, Parshavi Chopra in the UP Warriorz squad– Yashasri shares a deep connection. “Whenever we see each other we are always like ‘Haan U19 khela hai saath mai’ [which translates to ‘we’ve played U19 cricket together’] so that feeling comes in. She is fun and she cracks a lot of jokes.”

Looking back optimistically at her two seasons with the UP Warriorz, Yashasri reflectively shares that her major learnings on and off the field will always stay with her, “The main thing is mindset. I have improved my mindset from the WPL. I wouldn’t have got this enlightened if I wasn’t playing for UP Warriorz in the WPL. So that’s the reason I am going to take the feedback my coaches have given me or the senior players have given me and work on it this off-season.”

Representing her state, Hyderabad holds special significance for Yashasri, who values the unwavering support she receives.

“Hyderabad has always been very supportive towards me. It has always pushed me from my starting stage till now. They have always shown faith in me,” she affirms. “There are some tough times as a player where you don’t perform but still, they were like ‘No you’ll do, you’ll do’. They kept pushing and pushing. So I’m very thankful I’m playing for Hyderabad. And I would make my state proud playing from here.”

As she navigates the highs and lows of her cricketing journey, Yashasri remains grounded, drawing inspiration from her peers and setting lofty goals for herself. “I just get inspired by any person I feel like if in a domestic if somebody is doing well I’d be like, ‘Arey she’s good. I have to beat her’. That’s the first thing that comes into my mind. I’m very competitive,” she declares.

“My motive now is to bowl really fast like Shabnam Ismail” – S. Yashasri

S Yashasri in conversation with Shabnim Ismail [Image: Getty]
S Yashasri in conversation with Shabnim Ismail [Image: Getty]
“For instance, Shabnim Ismail was really bowling fast. So as a bowler, my first thing is bowling fast. So like Umran Malik, he played for India only because of his pace. My motive now is to bowl really fast like Shabnam Ismail. I want to become a really good and quality all-rounder.”

Reflecting on the mental side of the game, Yashasri likes to keep things simple. She said, “I don’t like visualising stuff. I just go and react to how the batter does. I want to keep it very simple. I don’t want to like already go with a certain mindset or certain things. I just want to react to how the batter is going to do. I’m going to react that way. I wanted to keep it very simple.”

Finding other leisures and modes of recreation is imperative for cricketers and seeking the advice of her teammates, Yashasri is about to embark on something exciting in the off-season.

“I want to start reading books because a few of my seniors have suggested to me I have to read books to get that motivation every day. I’ll start reading books maybe but my way of motivation is listening to songs.”

Looking at the larger discourse of how the WPL has been beneficial for the women’s game, she said, “Mainly, the first season of WPL was an enlightenment for all the players. We all got to know what the platform is. Like me, everybody would have worked hard on and improved their skill set. Even in our WPL at large, even in our UP Warriorz– every domestic player had a huge improvement. Likewise in other teams, that’s the reason there was no one-sided game this year. It was anybody’s game it was very close matches and it will get better and better.”

Balancing academics and a burgeoning cricketing career poses a significant challenge, acknowledges S. Yashasri, currently in her final year pursuing a BBA [Bachelor of Business Administration] degree. With unwavering determination, she navigates the demands of academia alongside her passion for cricket.

In a parting message to her fans and aspiring cricketers, Yashasri advocates for fearlessness and perseverance. “Just rock on and have that fire in you, always!” she exclaimed. “Be fearless and chase your dreams relentlessly!”

Yashasri stands at the brink of etching her name in the illustrious history of Indian cricket. She embodies the essence of resilience and tenacity, traits that define true champions. As she embarks on her journey, Yashasri holds onto the belief that the best things often come when least expected, a testament to the unpredictable yet exhilarating nature of life’s pursuits.

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