Probably she is the only domestic woman cricketer in India to be a part of nine India probables camp and still not make it to the coveted Women in Blue team. Between 2006 and 2014, she knocked many times on the doors of the Indian team however she was refused entry. Playing alongside India players in the Indian Railways team, she has many match-winning performances to her name. She takes us through her amazing journey that spans across more than two decades and shares some funny moments, which include secret behind Mithali Raj’s habit of reading a book before going in to bat. 😉
We are talking about Shweta Jadhav, who graced the Female Cricket feature Cricket with Queens, before the outbreak of COVID-19. During the episode, Female Cricket’s Vishal Yadav engaged in a heartfelt tête-à-tête with the southpaw from Maharashtra.
Excerpts from the interview
1. Tell us about your early days in cricket.
I started playing cricket right from my childhood days. I used to play with boys in my colony. When I was in the seventh standard, I joined a cricket coaching academy. During that time, one of the senior Maharashtra state players; Rucha Shinde spotted me playing and took me to Pune for U-16 (sub-junior trials). I had a good outing and I was picked up in the U-16 team. Coming back home and resuming school, I was asked to form a school girl’s cricket team for the school national cricket competition. Till then there was no girl’s cricket in my school, but after my U-16 selection in the state team, things changed. After playing for U-16, I was picked up in the Maharashtra U-19 team in 1999. In a couple of years, I made the cut in the senior team. I played for Maharashtra senior team for 10 years on the trot.
2. In 2005, you were picked up in the India U-21 team that was touring Pakistan. Tell us about that.
Riding on some good domestic performances, I made my way into the India U-21 India team. I always dreamt of playing for India and my dream was realized in 2005 when I was selected in the India U-21 side. We were scheduled to play a bilateral series against Pakistan in Pakistan. I was very excited to don the blue jersey and represent India that too against Pakistan. We won all the matches. It was an amazing feeling.
3. Till 2010, you played for Maharashtra. In 2011, you moved to Uttar Pradesh and in 2012 you were picked up in the Indian Railways side. Can you take us through your journey?
I played for the senior Maharashtra team from 2001 to 2010. In 2006, for some reason, unknown to me to date, I was dropped from the state team. Though I had played for the India U-21 team in 2005, I could not find a place in my state team. Just a year later, I was a stand-by. There was an injury to one of the players, so I got a chance to play. After playing for Maharashtra for over a decade, I decided to move to Uttar Pradesh (UP). I played for UP for a year in 2011 and in 2012 I was picked up in the Indian Railways team.
I was very happy to be a part of Indian Railways that boast of India players. Rubbing shoulders with players like Mithali Raj, Neetu David, Nooshin Al Khadeer, felt fantastic. In my first year (2012) for Railways, I scored plenty of runs.
Mithali di was injured, so the onus of providing a solid start to the team was on Punam (Raut) and me. We were the openers. I vividly remember the final match of that season which we played against Hyderabad. We won that match. Punam and I stitched a healthy partnership. I scored 125 and Punam hit an unbeaten 98.
After the match, Mithali di called me to congratulate me on my performance. Moving on, in 2015 and 2016, I was not a part of the playing XI for Indian Railways. I took a NOC and went to play for Maharashtra in 2017 and 2018. I had a prolific run for Maharashtra opening the batting. In 2019, I was again selected for Indian Railways.
4. Since you spent so much time playing domestic cricket, you must have had some funny moments on the field and off the field. Can you share some?
(Smiles) It was my first year for Indian Railways. Six senior players stepped out and six newcomers came in, including me. After completing a practice session, I, Anagha Deshpande, Shubhlakshmi Sharma, and Veda Krishnamurthy were clicking pictures. Mithali di and Punam were still in the nets. Mithali di saw us but did not say anything. After her net session, she walked towards us and said “Shweta Jadhav, have you come here to click pictures? You have not replaced anybody; you are just filling the gaps.” Those words, though they may sound harsh, I always took them positively. Today when I look back I can’t control my laughter. (laughs)
Another incident that I remember was after our (Indian Railways) T20 match against Hyderabad. We won the match by just one run. Mithali di was furious. She called for a team meeting after the match.
Looking at the score sheet, she questioned Asha Joy, “Why did we send you lower down the order for batting? Tell?” Asha Joy was stumped. She could just say, “Because…because…” Mithali di completed her sentence, “Because you are slow. You don’t know how to run, when to run, atrocious running between the wickets.” She went on and on and on. Sitting at the back, I couldn’t control my laughter.
One more thing that probably nobody knows is why Mithali Raj reads a book during the match when the team is batting. It so happened, that one fine day, Mithali di asked all the girls in the team, “Have you wondered why I read a book when you girls are batting?” She herself answered, “Because I cannot watch you all bat (smiles). I go into depression. I can’t understand what different things the ball does when you girls are batting.”
5. Which are the players that you looked up to?
I looked up to Yuvraj Singh, Robin Singh, Mithali Raj, and Jaya Sharma. I always found Jaya Sharma a classic bat.
6. Among the current Indian women players, whom do you enjoy watching?
I like watching Jemimah. She is a promising player. I also like Smriti. We have played together for Maharashtra and I am happy that she is scaling greater heights.
7. How has women’s cricket changed over the years?
Women’s cricket has definitely changed for good over the years. Earlier, there was not much awareness about women’s cricket, but today, after the two consecutive World Cups, when we reached up to the finals; there are more and more girls who are motivated to take up cricket as a profession. Parents have also become supportive. Initially, we hardly had financial incentives to play the sport, but today, the girls can definitely look at cricket from making their careers.
Watch the Full Episode here: