Rajeshwari Gayakwad celebrates a New Zealand wicket during the Women’s World Cup match in Derby on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images
Rajeshwari Gayakwad. That name might not have rung any bells till a clement Saturday at Derby, England. Her 5 for 15 propelled India to a win over New Zealand in the ICC Women's World Cup and earned her team a last four berth as well.
But that win had an individual effect too as people began to stroll through various web pages, checking Rajeshwari's profile. In a matter of hours, the 26-year-old Bijapur, Karnataka, native became a popular search topic on the internet. Even those who searched might have got only rudimentary details like her name, native, age and the style of bowling - left-arm orthodox spin.
However, not many would know that Rajeshwari began her career as a medium pacer. As they say, often small changes lead to career-changing landmarks. Rajeshwari is one such example.
"She always wanted to hurl a cricket ball as fast as she could," said Irfan Sait, who has been associated with the Indian women's cricket for a long while and runs his academy - Karnataka Institute of Cricket (KIOC) - in Bangalore. "When I saw her in age-group cricket, Rajeshwari desperately wanted to become a fast bowler. At the nets, she tried her hand in pace bowling. But she did not have the physique to become a pace bowler, so we advised her to concentrate on spin bowling," said Sait.
"There was a reluctance, of course, upfront. 'I want to be a fast bowler,' she used to tell us. But several other coaches too persuaded her to shift from pace to spin. Experienced coaches like Rajesh Kamath, Somasekhar Shiraguppi and Raichur zone coach Hakkim, also her early coach, then convinced her about the need to change her bowling style," he said.
All Sait and done
Sait said the coaches and officials took up her case with lot of consideration because Rajeshwari had lost her father at a tender age. "She unfortunately lost her father very early and needed all the support to go up the ladder in cricket. In that context, people and officials around helped her a lot, especially Hakkim," said Sait.
Though she did not have the physique of a pacer, Rajeshwari, according to Sait, has a ticking cricketing brain. "She is this thinking type of bowler. She could not have become a fast bowler, but the aggression and hunger for wickets that mark a pacer remained with her. She constantly searches for wickets and plots the downfall of batswomen," he said. Sait pointed out the example of her winkling out Amy Satterthwaite of New Zealand on Saturday. "Rajeshwari dragged the NZ batswoman, who looked set, forward and bowled wide to have her stumped. It was a brilliant effort, a typical spinner's wicket," he said.
That streak of brilliance began over a decade ago at a small district ground in Bijapur. Rajeshwari has come a long way!