To play good cricket and then to lose CWG final was a bit hurting: India spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad

The left-arm spinner opens up about her experience in the CWG village, the battle against Australia, packed calendar ahead, her goals for the T20 World Cup and more

Published: 22nd August 2022 12:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd August 2022 12:28 AM   |  A+A-

'You will see the results in the near future': India left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad.

Express News Service

When Rajeshwari Gayakwad left for the ODI World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year, she wanted to bury the haunting memories of the 2017 edition final and return home with the trophy. However, that wasn’t meant to be. Four months after India’s early exit, Rajeshwari watched India lose in another final in England, albeit from the bench, at the Commonwealth Games. This time, unlike the World Cups, they got to get on the podium and shine with a silver medal on women’s cricket debut in the tournament.

Currently preparing for the upcoming England tour at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, the left-arm spinner opens up about her experience in the CWG village, the battle against Australia, packed calendar ahead, playing a home Test, her goals for the T20 World Cup and more. Excerpts.

On maiden CWG experience

It was incredible. When we entered the village for the first time, for cricket and beach volleyball there was a separate village. When we had an off day, we were able to visit the village where other athletes were staying. We met Hockey men’s and women’s teams, Hima Das was also there, it was the first time we met each other. Before that we hadn’t seen them in person. They were really happy that cricket was making its debut. They explained how in general these games would be, especially the men’s hockey team, they have past experience of playing in the CWG, they spoke with us and explained a lot of things.

Almost every India match had full crowds, with audiences from other sports as well. How was it to see an entire new section of fans coming to watch cricket?

We didn’t expect it at all. Whatever tournament or series we play, World Cups, we have seen crowds fill up the stadiums in the past. But in the Commonwealth Games, we didn’t know that these many people would come and watch the matches. Every game had really good crowd attendance, a lot more than what we had expected. India-Pakistan was sold out.

And the Indian team went and watched other sports as well…

It was very exciting for us. To go and watch another sport. But unfortunately we managed to watch just the hockey game and PV Sindhu’s match because of time constraints. We went to the England India women’s hockey game and were cheering for them. The entire stadium was filled with a home crowd, but in the middle, we were shouting and supporting India. It was a one of a kind experience.

What’s the one moment you will never forget?

The most memorable moment was the medal ceremony. When we got the medals, it was the first time we were experiencing it. There was a medal for third place as well, so it was very competitive till the end. That is not the case in ICC tournaments, like giving medals or raising the flags, it was a new experience and something that will stay with me forever.

Was it bittersweet to be on the podium minutes after losing the gold medal clash?

There will always be more excitement when you play for third place or first place. Silver medal is fine, even if we lose, we will get it. But the happiest would be the one with the gold medal and then the bronze medal. We were aiming for gold throughout the tournament. But unfortunately we lost by nine runs in the end. But the aim was for gold through and through. We were supposed to win gold, but unfortunately we lost in the final moments. To play such good cricket and then to lose and end up with silver is a bit hurting as well. That said, the best part about this was the fact that we were playing it for the first time and to win a silver medal and come back home, it was very satisfying.

It keeps happening, isn’t it?  Losing crunch games like the final at clutch moments?

The match (against Australia) was swinging either way throughout the chase. One second, it seemed like we were cruising and the next, like it was slipping away. When Harman (Harmanpreet Kaur) and Jemimah (Rodrigues) were batting, it seemed like we were going to win easily. But once they got out, the match slipped away. It happened in the first match also. Whenever we play against Australia, the body language would be very different. We always want to win against them. We batted well, and bowling, too, started off well. But in the latter stages, whatever plans we had for them did not work out. Against Australia, even the smallest mistake could tilt the balance in their favour. It's not like we couldn't handle pressure. We are doing it well, but we have to work on not letting go off the momentum at the last minute.

The Indian women have been working at the NCA a lot since the World Cup. What are the key areas of focus for you and the team with a packed calendar ahead?

Since a lot of matches are coming up, we are focussing on fitness and fielding at the National Cricket Academy. Preparation is key. We deserved to be in the semifinal of the World Cup, but in the last moment we lost the match and returned home, but we have worked a lot since and the silver medal is a result of it. There are a lot of positives. We are building up to something really special. There are a lot of youngsters in the team and it helps in the shortest format.  In the near future, you will see the results.

You have played in the 2020 T20 World Cup final. There is another coming up in the next six months. What are your goals in the lead up to the marquee event?

For us, Australia has been the toughest opponent. We always play good cricket against them and for me, personally, I want India to beat them in the World Cup. In both the CWG and the 2020 T20 World Cup, we played them in the finals. But in the coming World Cup, my personal wish is to reach the final, beat Australia and win the World Cup. I am working on specific skills for the shortest format, but let it be a secret for now (laughs).

A six-team Women’s IPL seems to be on the cards as well for March 2023. Your thoughts and which team would you want to play for?

If a six-team WIPL happens, girls will get a lot more opportunities, more young girls would want to take up the game. There is the Women’s Big Bash League and then The Hundred, if the WIPL also comes in, we can play more competitive cricket. As for the team, (Royal Challengers) Bangalore, without a doubt. If I get to play for RCB, we will win it (the first title for the franchise), for sure.

India Matters


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