All you need to know about Rajeshwari Gayakwad, India's bowling hero against New Zealand
The Indian Women’s cricket team stormed into the semi-finals of the 2017 World Cup with a thumping 186-run win over New Zealand in their final group game on Saturday.
In what was a must-win game for India, it was skipper Mithali Raj’s fantastic century that laid the foundation for the victory before World Cup debutant Rajeshwari Gayakwad ripped through the New Zealand batting, picking up five wickets whilst conceding just 15 runs.
New Zealand were bowled out for just 79 runs in reply to India’s total of 265 and the Mithali Raj-led side will now battle it out with the likes of England, Australia and South Africa for the coveted prize.
While Raj’s heroics came as no surprise, considering her pedigree, it was the performance of Gayakwad that took everyone by surprise, including the New Zealand batswomen who had no answers to her left-arm orthodox bowling.
It was a bold call by the team management to replace someone like Ekta Bisht, who had picked up five wickets in the game against Pakistan earlier in the tournament with an inexperienced player like Gayakwad, but she repaid the faith with some fine bowling and deserves all the praise that’s coming her way.
Here are some interesting facts about India’s latest bowling sensation:
Rajeshwari Gayakawad is the first woman cricket player of the Bijapur district in Karnataka to get selected in the national women’s cricket team.
Cricket was not her first choice as she was initially an accomplished javelin and discuss thrower and also a member of the junior volleyball district team, before making the switch to cricket.
It was Basavaraj Ijeri, the head of the women’s wing at the cricket facility setup at the Ambedkar ground in Bijapur, who spotted Gayakwad’s talent in cricket when she was in Class 11.
Gayakwad started out her professional career with the Bijapur Women’s Cricket Club in 2007.
It was her father Shivanand, a government primary school teacher, who supported her foray into sports and encouraged her to take up cricket professionally.
Rajeshwari moved to Bangalore after Class 12 and completed her Graduation in Arts as she was unsure about the future of women’s cricket in India.
Rajeshwari’s idol is former New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori and she recalls watching the left-arm spinner bowling at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengalure during an IPL match as one of her most treasured memories.
She made her ODI debut against Sri Lanka on 19 January 2014.
Playing her 28th ODI on Saturday, her figures of 5/15 from 7.3 overs were the best in her career thus far.
Gayakwad’s figures bettered India’s best at the World Cup, beating the previous best set by the player whom she replaced, Ekta Bisht, who took 5/18 against Pakistan, earlier in the tournament.
The figures were also the third best overall on World Cup debut behind Glenys Page’s 6/20 and Tina McPherson’s 5/14.
She had a memorable Test debut as well picking up five wickets against South Africa in Mysore in 2014.
Rajeshwari’s sister, Rameshwari Gayakwad, is also a professional cricketer, representing Karnataka at the national level, and aspires to join her sibling in the Indian national side in the near future.