From Karnataka’s Bijapur, emerged a pacer-turned-crafty spinner, representing India with unwavering determination for over 9 remarkable years and counting. This small-town star cricketer has donned the blue of India, evolving into a seasoned campaigner celebrated for her ability to apply pressure and her knack for taking crucial wickets. At 32 years old, this maestro has claimed an astounding 162 wickets in just 122 appearances across all three formats of the game. Her name resonates with precision, flight, and turn – Rajeshwari Gayakwad.
Female Cricket caught up with Rajeshwari Gayakwad and here are excerpts from our conversation.
1) After 9 impressive years in international cricket, can you talk us through your journey, Rajeshwari?
My 9-year journey so far for India has been quite fulfilling. After years of struggle, playing for India and doing so for these many years is a significant achievement for me as a girl from Bijapur. Coming from a small town and surviving in the Indian team for this long is a remarkable feat, and I aspire to continue playing for India and giving my best for my team in the future.
2) Lately, India has played exhilarating games against World Champions Australia. How was your experience sharing the dressing room with a few of them at UP Warriorz?
When we’ve played against them (Australia), we’ve always seen them as opponents and interacted accordingly. They are a champion team, what the WPL has made possible is that we’ve got to learn a lot from them. Sharing the dressing room with them is a significant experience for us.
Every player has a unique thought process, and there’s something to learn from everyone. So, when they were playing with us, we learned a lot from them, such as how they prepare for matches and the way they handle things. We gained valuable insights from observing their approach.
3) Can you talk to us about the challenges you overcame, especially when you were starting to play the game?
There was a time when I didn’t even have enough money for the bus fare. When we would think about going to Bangalore, we’d worry about how we’d manage it because everything was so expensive. Everyone knows that cricket equipment doesn’t come cheap, and being from a middle-class family, we had to carefully consider every purchase. In Bangalore when we used to receive our daily allowance, we would make it last for as long as we stayed there. Looking back, I realize how we managed those days, and it fills me with a sense of achievement. Life’s struggles are necessary because they teach us to value every little thing.
When I reflect on those times, it brings me a lot of happiness. If I hadn’t lived through those experiences, I wouldn’t be where I am today. No matter how much I have now, I never feel as happy as I did back then. I’ve learned to be content with what I have. I never thought about needing more. These experiences have shaped me, and without them, I wouldn’t have learned these valuable lessons.
4) You’ve mentioned that cricket is an expensive sport. Did you ever consider quitting?
I never felt like I should give up because I couldn’t afford things. It never crossed my mind. My parents provided so much support that they never once expressed that they couldn’t provide for me. I didn’t always focus as much on my studies as I did on sports. I loved playing so much, and with the support from home, I never felt the need to quit.
Watch Video: Rajeshwari Gayakwad shares her personal struggles and how they shaped her path to success
We faced numerous challenges in life because, as you know, when you’re moving forward, there are always obstacles, too. I’ve encountered many such people in my life, and I think, if they hadn’t been there, maybe I wouldn’t have reached this far. So, I’m always thankful to them because their actions made me realize what I can achieve in life. These experiences should be part of life, and there should be people who challenge you and, in my life, there were many such individuals.
5) With women’s cricket growing exponentially over the past few years, we’ve seen positive decisions being made, one of which is the introduction of a Future Tour Programme (FTP). How do you view this? Does it help in any way?
Yes, it does help. But I don’t think too much about which series is coming up next because I believe more in my process and hard work. The more you think, the more it’s a sure thing that you won’t be able to do anything because every time you think too much, you put more pressure on yourself. So, I don’t burden myself with that, and whatever series is there, I know, if I perform well, I’ll be retained for the next.
But one thing is that you always know that you’ll be playing these matches in the near future. Obviously, that helps, but I prefer to keep my mind stress-free.
6) What differences do you notice in the up-and-coming generation? How’s your bond with them?
The first time anyone joins a team, they often have the same thoughts, wondering how things will go, how they will perform. It’s natural. Because when I first joined the team, I was nervous too, and I can relate to anyone who’s new to the team. But these days, youngsters are very confident because they have the opportunity to play so many matches. So, no one really feels like they’re playing their first match anymore.
Because there are so many matches available in domestic cricket now, and with the introduction of WPL, there isn’t as much pressure on anyone. During our time, we used to play only 2-3 matches in a year, and that’s when we felt the pressure of facing big teams and the challenges that came with it. But today’s youngsters are smart, and whenever they feel unsure, they come and ask questions, and as senior players, we are always there to help them.
Watch Video: Rajeshwari Gayakwad steps up in a vital World Cup match after being neglected for 6 games
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