Earlier this year during the T20I tri-series featuring India, Australia, and England, Radha Yadav made a habit to embrace and then lift the wicket-taking bowler as part of the celebration. At, 18, Yadav is full of enthusiasm and one of the newbies in India's World Cup squad. She is one of the rare cricketers that moved away from Mumbai and shifted to Baroda to prosper her cricketing career. The move proved to be fruitful as Yadav was called on to don the India blue in South Africa in February this year.
Since debuting for India, Yadav has featured in nine out of the 20 matches India has played. Importantly, she finds herself in the Caribbean ready to take on the world. Breaking into the playing XI could present a challenge, especially with the experienced left-arm spinner, Ekta Bisht already in the squad, but such is the nature of the T20 format that India could easily opt for similar kind of a spinner in a match. Add to the fact that she kept World Cup player Rajeshwari Gayakwad out of the team also indicates that her style of bowling and her capabilities with the bat give India another bowling all-rounder option.
Yadav has had a decent start to the career has picked up nine wickets from nine matches with a strike-rate of 17.88 and an economy rate of 6.67. The figures might not be glowing, but the fact that she had bowled at the death and is still raw at the international level indicates that she is not afraid of any challenges.
Having played a lot of her junior cricket in Mumbai, Yadav has been involved in plenty of club matches and relishes the pressure. In an interview, she had stated that while she used to get anxious when called upon to bowl during her youth days, but over time and with match practice she has learned to be more confident and relaxed.
Daughter of a small shop owner in the northern suburbs of Mumbai, Yadav has been practicing her trade in Baroda under the guidance of Mumbai club cricketer Praful Naik.
"I had trained her since she was 12 years old so she was adamant that she wanted to be coached by me. Radha talked with her parents who agreed to let her move to Baroda. The cricketing facilities here are very good and she gets to practice a lot. Also, she got good opportunities to play here unlike Mumbai where there is tough competition" Naik had told The Times of India.
The World T20, however, will certainly be a tougher competition. The early signs are positive. In the second warm-up match, Yadav managed to snare two wickets as she suffocated the West Indies batswomen with her stump-to-stump bowling. Harmanpreet Kaur will look to use her in tandem with leg-spinner Poonam Yadav and hope the two Yadav's can choke the opposition and also take wickets.
Traditionally, the pitches in Guyana, where India will play all their pool matches are on the slow side, so the conditions will resemble the surfaces of India. For Yadav to be productive, she will need to use all her subtle variations to deceive the batswomen off the pitch. It will be a huge learning curve for the left-arm spinner, but history tells us that she is a fast learner and can adapt to new scenarios.
Having a former international spinner Ramesh Powar as a coach is certainly going to assist her with her conjure plans against different opponents. For the last two seasons, she has been playing in the Challenger Trophy and that experience is also bound to help her when she confronts against some of the finest cricketers in world cricket.
Yadav had a good tour of Sri Lanka recently, where she was the second leading wicket-taker in the series. The talented all-rounder took six wickets and never went for more than six runs an over in the five matches she played in. And while many will look for her to have an impact with the ball, it will also be her sublime fielding that could have an impact on a match.
As her childhood coach revealed in an interview to Times of India "it wasn't just her bowling that caught my eye it was her extraordinary fielding as well".
If Yadav gets an opportunity during the World T20, be assured of witnessing some exciting performances. She certainly has the talent with the ball, but the way she handles herself under pressure against formidable batting line-ups, will define the next chapter of her young career.