Soni Yadav: From Gully Cricket To Being Part Of Team India
From street cricket to wearing the Indian jersey, many people can only dream to do this while only some actually achieve this feat. Chasing her father’s dream that soon became her own after his death, Delhi cricketer Soni Yadav is a living example of one just has to have a goal and grind to reach it, and the rest follows.
At what age did you start playing cricket?
I used to play the sport since I was a kid. Initially, as a kid, I played gully cricket and then started playing professional cricket when I was in 11th grade.
Tell us something about your childhood days and how you were introduced to cricket?
My father passed away when I was six years old, he really loved cricket is what my mother used to tell me. At this point, I already played gully cricket, so I thought why not make a career in this, why not continue with this game for as long as I can? This was something that increased my interest in the game even more, that it was something that meant so much to my father.
I thought of making a career in Badminton as well, but I always was interested in cricket and loved the sport more than any other.
Which academy did you join to take your cricket forward?
I joined the RPCA Cricket Academy in Ghaziabad and trained under Ajay Verma sir. From there I got selected to be a part of Delhi Women’s U19 team.
Were you always a sportsperson? What drew you to choosing cricket over other sports?
Yes, always! During school time I played Kho-Kho and Badminton as well. I thought of making a career in Badminton as well, but I always was interested in cricket and loved the sport more than any other. That’s why I decided to pursue it.
Were you always a fast bowler or that changed along the way?
I was always interested in bowling over batting and I have always been a fast bowler, even when I played gully cricket, I used to bowl as a fast bowler.
Who were your cricketing idols/role models growing up?
I used to follow cricket a lot as a kid. I really loved Suresh Raina! I still do, haven’t had the opportunity to meet him yet. But once, Pawan Negi used to stay here nearby and Raina had come to his place. By this point, I had represented India ‘A’. So I told Pawan Negi’s sister to get his autograph for me on my cap.
How has DDCA contributed to your career?
They have contributed in a great way. Initially, we had very few camps and the facilities weren’t that good. But now they have started putting up more camps and providing better facilities for us. The senior players have been of great help as well. Players from the Delhi senior team like Reema (Malhotra) di, Babita (Negi) di, they support us juniors a lot. They boost up our confidence. If we ever have a downfall they make us understand things better and help us be positive.
As a bowler, who do you look up to?
I look up to Jhulan Goswami di, I really get an inspiration looking at her. Her attitude, behavior, I really like it all. I read a lot of stuff about her. Whenever there’s a camp or a series in which both she and I are playing, I try to learn as much as I can from her. So yes I get really inspired by her.
How has your experience with western railways been?
I started playing for Western Railways in 2017. It has been a great experience! All the seniors are extremely good, they support us, doesn’t feel like they’re older than us at all. Like Punam Raut di, even with the players who have represented the Indian Women’s Team, it doesn’t feel like they are at a level above us. They try to take us along, correct our mistakes when needed, and treat us extremely well.
You played the World Cup qualifiers in Sri Lanka in 2017, tell us something about that.
I was very nervous when I first got the call. I was thinking “the team is filled with senior players and I am a junior”, but when I actually became a part of the team and mixed up with them, I didn’t feel like that anymore. They were treating me well, helping and supportive so it was a good experience.
All the seniors are extremely good, they support us, doesn’t feel like they’re older than us at all.
Apart from cricket, what do you enjoy doing off the field?
I love hanging out with my friends when not playing cricket and really like listening to music.
Career-wise, what is your ultimate goal?
When I started playing cricket my biggest and probably the only dream was to wear the Indian jersey, and I have already achieved that. It was my ultimate goal.
What role has your family played in your journey?
My family has been like my rock. After my father expired, my mother had all the burden on her shoulders. She had to take care of my siblings, my grandmother, everyone. I am from Ghaziabad and there weren’t many academies back then there for girls. People used to say “she’s a girl, what will she do playing cricket?” Sometimes these things eventually start having an impact on your family’s mindset as well. But they never let that happen. They have always supported me. There were days I used to travel to-and-fro from Ghaziabad to Delhi, they helped me with that as well. No one ever stopped me from following my dreams.
What has been your best cricketing moment so far?
When I got into my state team for the U19s, I didn’t get a chance to play. But when the team qualified for nationals, one girl fell ill and I replaced her in the team. In that game, the Delhi team was in a very bad situation. If we would’ve lost that match, we probably wouldn’t have qualified for the finals. In that match, I bowled 10 overs, gave 17 runs and took 4 wickets!
It always makes you happy when your contribution helps in making the team win so that is one good memory.
How do you think women’s cricket can be further promoted in India?
I think once there’s a proper Women’s IPL, it will really help with the development. If you see because the international matches that get telecasted now, people know the international players like Harry di (Harmanpreet Kaur), Smriti Mandhana. If there’s a proper IPL, people will know even those players who aren’t playing at the national or international level.
The domestic players will get a lot of exposure and that will certainly inspire more girls in taking up cricket.
This interview was published first on Female Cricket.