Taekwondo to cricket via tennis & shot-put – The New Indian Express

Express News Service

CHENNAI: It hasn’t been a week since Bihar’s Yashita Singh lit up the IC Gurunanak College Grounds, Chennai with the first and only century of the Women’s U19 T20 Trophy so far this season. While her unbeaten 138 came against Nagaland, which might not be the strongest opponent, there was something about the Bihar batter.

Through the course of the 60-ball innings, the 15-year-old put on a hitting exhibition. She bludgeoned the Nagaland bowlers across the park, smashing 20x4s and 6x6s. The ease with which Yashita was able to maul the ball down the ground and over the ropes between covers to midwicket told that she was special. What makes it even fascinating is that until July 2019, the Bihar teenager hadn’t started training to become a cricketer.

“Growing up, I was playing all sports,” Yashita told this daily. “My favorite sport was taekwondo where I won several medals. Then, I was training for lawn tennis. My all India ranking was 20. I was also a shot put athlete for my school and have won in state level competitions. But at one point, I had to give it up. I loved playing cricket in our apartment with my brother and friends, but I hadn’t played it at any level until 2019,” she said.

Her father Shailendra Kumar Singh, who has played cricket at university level, had an “established business”. But due to unfortunate circumstances, he had to shut it down. That’s when he started focusing on training both his children in cricket. Taking the suggestion of former Bihar cricketer Vishnu Shankar, he focused on Yashita’s cricket and within six months, she made it as a standby to the women’s senior team at the age of 12.

Yashita made her U23 and U19 debuts for the state. Having played only individual sports until that point, team sport was new for her. She had no fear of whether she was playing with or against an India international. Although she did not make a mark in the circuit that year, it did not take long for her to advance to the senior team. In 2021, she played for Bihar senior women at the age of 14.

Through this time, the journey was not easy. During the pandemic, the struggles at home got only harder. “It was very difficult. I was focusing only on coaching my kids for 7-8 hours a day. We had our difficulties, but I believed we could keep the house going. But ek junoon tha (it was a passion). The joy of playing the sport is nowhere else,” Shailendra Kumar told this daily.

By this time, Yashita had become a regular in the state age-group side. However, she hadn’t made it to the next level. When she did not get selected for the U19 one-day challengers in 2021 after finishing 12th in the runs tally, Yashita realized she had to do more. “I should be in the top five to move up the ladder. Cricket is my sport and I am serious about it. I want to play for India at the U19 World Cup,” said the teenager.

Playing different sports at a young age has helped her in that regard. The ease with which she is able to free her arms and hit through the length in the leg side with her forehand comes from the years she spent playing lawn tennis. And it is her hitting ability that got her to the zonal camp held in Hubbali earlier this year. But a shoulder injury before the matches in the camp meant she couldn’t make it to the 25-member NCA camp in August.

While the U19 World Cup is her dream, the only thing that is in Yashita’s mind right now is helping Bihar win the U19 T20 tournament. As they take on Delhi in the pre-quarterfinals in Ahmedabad on Tuesday, the 15-year-old is at the top of the batting charts and how she performs will be key to Bihar’s success. “If I bat until the 20th over, I will make a lot of runs for my team. We are going to make history this year,” Yashita signed off.

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