However, a year later, she was dropped ahead of the series against South Africa at home. With results not going India's way, the wicketkeeper-batter made her way to the Indian team for the England tour. Bhatia made her Test debut in Bristol and turned a lot of heads with her brilliant work behind the stumps.
The best part was her 104-run partnership with Sneh Rana for the eighth wicket, helping India save the Test match on the final day. Ahead of the multi-format series against Australia, Bhatia was included in the team for the pink-ball Test and ODIs but was left out of the T20I squad.
Before leaving for Australia, 23-year-old Bhatia spoke to Women's CricZone about her Test debut, wicketkeeping, contributing to the team with the bat, and more.
You made your Test debut against England in the one-off Test match that India played after a gap of seven years. Talk us through that moment?
I have always dreamt of playing for the country. Test debut makes it really special for me. I remember watching all of them playing seven years back on TV. It literally gave me chills. The day before the Test match, I got to know that I would be making a debut. I was really excited looking forward to it. I had to sleep because I knew if we were to field first, I had to keep for a longer period of time.
What was your preparation for the Test like as there is not much domestic experience for the players especially in the longer format?
Mental and physical preparation for Tests is very challenging. I have been preparing myself physically for the Test match. Test cricket is all about sessions, so what’s important is to understand when to switch on and off during the play. We have played two days of cricket in domestic set-up, so I am used to keeping for 100 overs, but international cricket is at a different level. I made sure I followed the same routine in practice, which will help me during the Test match.
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Apart from wicket-keeping you also contributed with the bat in the Test match. Your partnership with Sneh Rana was crucial for drawing the match. Can you take us through that partnership?
I remember we were eight or nine (8) down. There were some nerves in the dressing room, but at the same time, we were confident in our long batting line-up. I cracked jokes in the dressing room to calm myself down before going out for batting. I thought it was a great opportunity for me, and I went out with positive intent. All the credit goes to Sneh Rana. She motivated me throughout (the partnership). We have played with each other for Punjab, so we are used to (batting with) each other. As we got going, the English players also started sledging. I was actually enjoying it because that pumps me up.
Did you feel that if there was the fifth day, India could have won the Test match?
If there was one more session in the Test match, we would have gone for the win. The umpires told us that the game had to be stopped because of the bad light. We were going for runs and not thinking about saving the Test match.
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You will face Australia in India’s first-ever Pink-ball Test. How are you going to approach the Test?
We have only seen the men’s team play the Pink-ball Test in India. We, as a unit, are very excited about this opportunity. In our camp in Bangalore, we regrouped and started working on our strengths and weaknesses, keeping in mind our performance against England. I don’t think playing under the lights will be a challenge, but playing in Australian conditions can be challenging. We will start working on our process in the practice sessions.
You are considered as one of the best wicket-keepers in India and there are a lot of expectations from you. How do you cope up with it?
Honestly, I really don’t look at labels. I want to give my best whenever I am on the field in any capacity I can. I try to keep things simple during the keeping. I try to add to my skillset without forgetting the basics. I keep working on and analyzing my keeping skills. I don’t think a lot about what people say, and that’s my simple mantra. Usually, keepers don’t get any appreciation, so it’s good when I get some.
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What do you find tougher - keeping to a spinner or to a pacer standing up to the stumps?
I guess keeping to every bowler has its own challenges. I have kept wickets to pacers standing up to the stumps since my Punjab days. It’s not something I started doing after arriving at the national level. With pacers, it takes time to understand the bounce, especially in the places like England and Australia, where it gets even more challenging.
You were fantastic in the Test match, but your batting has not been consistent in the ODIs and T20Is. How do you look at your batting in short formats?
I do agree that I have not been consistent with the bat. I have performed well in the patches. Obviously, I cannot change what has happened in the previous tours. I keep everything in my mind and have been working on a lot of things because my position in the batting lineup is crucial for the team. I am trying to work some things out with my batting coach. Sometimes things that I have practised works and sometimes they don’t. I know that I need just one good inning for my confidence, and it will set the tone.
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When the squad was announced for the Australia series, you were not part of the T20I side. With Commonwealth Games and T20 World Cup ahead, how you are looking to make a comeback in the T20I squad for India?
Honestly, I was a little disappointed, but I have always practised living in the present. I need to focus on what’s in my hands at this moment. The one good innings and more I perform with the bat, I think I will make my way back into the T20 side. I understand that everyone is not fortunate enough to play for their country. I am expected to contribute to any position team management wants me to. Yes, it gets difficult to bat at various positions but I want to be a flexible batter. I am looking forward to contributing to the team’s success not just as a wicket-keeper but as a batter as well.
How important is the support of family in your life?
My parents have always been my strength, and my dogs have really made an impact. I have three dogs, and they have taught me to value the smallest things in life. I love them unconditionally. I am a much more responsible and caring person because of my dogs. My mother is an inspiration for me, and I learnt the 'never give up' attitude from her. I have seen her work hard and compromise so much, and I receive my strength from her. My father was also a cricketer. He always backs me no matter what the situation is, and they are pillars of my strength.
India will play Australia in the multi-format series and will head to New Zealand for the World Cup in March. What are your goals for the next few months?
Right now, my focus is on the Australia tour. I am working on certain aspects (of my game) and have been in touch with my batting coach. The domestic season is also coming up after the Australia tour, and then we have one more series before the World Cup. My aim is to be in the present, taking one series at a time. I am not thinking too much about the future. Right now, it’s just this upcoming series against Australia that is my focus.
(With inputs from Yash Lahoti)