Indian spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad says recognition has increased after Women's World Cup
Coming from the historical town of Bijapur which is known for its architectural brilliance, Rajeshwari Gayakwad is now designing the layout of her own career in international cricket.
New Delhi: Coming from the historical town of Bijapur which is known for its architectural brilliance, Rajeshwari Gayakwad is now designing the layout of her own career in international cricket.
"Yes, I come from a historical place known for its architecture but probably now people know that an India cricketer lives there," the reticent but confident Gayakwad had a glint in her eyes talking about Bijapur.
The Indian team was back after its much-followed World Cup campaign, and the girls were being feted by the BCCI in the national capital a few days back.
There was an unprecedented media frenzy to get the same mundane sound bytes from the likes of Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur. They kept their counsel as there were too many queries.
All other players were enjoying their moment under the sun. In a quiet corner stood Rajeshwari, clad in a navy blue India blazer, like her teammates. There was the white envelope in her hand that had a cheque of Rs 50 lakh — she had just hit the paydirt — a feeling that, perhaps, is yet to sink in.
Some of media people walked up to her and requested for interviews. Initially reluctant, she obliged eventually.
"It feels really nice. I could have never imagined that this is the kind of response we will be getting from everyone -- cricket lovers, media and everyone around. Only if my father would have been there to see all this. I don't think anyone would have been more proud than him," she said, the soft-spoken cricketer's answers barely audible.
Life has not exactly been a bed of roses despite a regal name. Just after she made her India debut, she lost her father Shivanand -- her biggest inspiration.
"I still miss him everyday."
The tinge of sadness in Rajeshwari's voice was unmistakable as she spoke about her late father.
"My father passed away in 2014, just after my India debut. I came back after playing my debut international series (T20 Internationals against Sri Lanka) and he passed away. Even when I step onto the field, I feel, he is watching me from somewhere," said Rajeshwari.
Unlike a Mithali or a Harmanpreet, Rajeshwari started playing serious cricket in her late teens -- in 2008 -- when she was around 18 years.
"My father aspired to play serious cricket but never got a chance to express himself. When he realised I had talent, he wanted that I get formal coaching. Initially, I was bowling left-arm medium pace but it was my coach who told me to try left-arm orthodox spin. Within two months of formal coaching, I was playing for the Karnataka state team," said the Western Railways employee.
Rajeshwari was one of the architects of India's crushing win over New Zealand in the final round robin league match, with a brilliant spell of 5/15.
"The key to success in limited overs cricket is consistency. My forte is bowling wicket-to-wicket. I believe in stifling the batsmen for runs. Obviously, as a bowler, you need to have variations. I am working on flighted deliveries, drift. The more I play, the better I will get," said the 26-year-old, who has 54 wickets from 30 ODIs.
So has she planned her investments?
"Yes, the first priority is to buy a house for my family."
In Bijapur, she is slowly gaining popularity.
"My mother tells me that earlier, people knew that there is this girl, who plays for India but they now know Rajeshwari is from Bijapur. There is a connect -- our girl has played World Cup final," Rajeshwari, the uncrowned 'Princess' of Bijapur, said.
The 48-year-old has been in charge of Australia's all-conquering women's team for the past seven years, winning back-to-back Twenty20 World Cups in 2018 and 2020 and the 50-over equivalent earlier this year.
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