It was a press conference unlike any other in Indian women’s cricket. Jhulan Goswami
, who is set to play her last international match on Saturday, had more than the usual handful of journalists there to meet her, virtually, of course. The questions ranged from her favourite memories and regrets to the big one: what next. And Goswami showed the patience of a fast bowler who has run in hard for 20 long years while tackling them.
“For the last two years, I was thinking every series could be my last, especially with Covid-19 postponing cricket to 2021,” Goswami said. “I was going through a lot of injuries. I was taking it series by series. After the [2022 ODI] World Cup I thought maybe the tour to Sri Lanka would be my last. But during the World Cup, I got injured and I was not fit enough to tour Sri Lanka. This is the last ODI series before the T20 World Cup (in February 2023), and so I thought I will go to NCA [National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru], do a lot of rehab, and come to England for my last series.”
Goswami was part of two 50-over World Cup finals – in 2005
and then in 2017
, when India lost by a mere nine runs. The veteran fast bowler said not winning a World Cup was a regret but was hopeful of the current bunch of players going the distance.
“If we would have won one of those [two World Cup finals], it would have been great for Team India and women’s cricket,” she said. “That is the ultimate goal for every athlete. When you put so much hard work, you prepare for four years and if you win the trophy, it is a dream come true. Unfortunately we played three finals including T20 [World Cup in 2020] but were not able to win the final. It has hurt feelings and that is one regret.”
Goswami has been a constant feature
despite the changing landscape of Indian women’s cricket, and will finish
her two-decade-long career at Lord’s.
She is not yet sure about playing the women’s IPL
, which is expected to take place in March 2023.
“Let that [women’s IPL] announcement happen officially, and then I will decide,” she said. “At this moment, I am ending my career from international cricket.
“You will get injured and that is when your character is required for you to come back every time you fall down. I felt then that it would have been better if I had not been a fast bowler. I wished then that I should have been a batter. I would not have had so many injuries”
“When I started, I never thought about playing for so long. Those days we used to represent WCAI (Women’s Cricket Association of India), and after 2006, we [have been] in the umbrella of BCCI. I used to undertake a two-and-a-half-hour one-way train journey from Chakdaha
, train and go back home and then go back for practice the next day. [But the] best memory was when I represented India… getting my India cap from my captain [Anjum Chopra] and bowling the first over in my career. That was the most important moment in my life.
“As a ball girl in the 1997 Women’s World Cup, I saw the final
at Eden Gardens between Australia and New Zealand, and that day I dreamt that one day I might represent my country. That is how I started and put in a lot of efforts just to represent my country.”
“Nineteen-year-old Jhulan, when she was debuting in 2002 in Chennai, was absolutely raw,” she said. “She just wanted to bowl fast and wanted to take one wicket because she didn’t know if she would be able to continue or not. She didn’t know if her performance could be maintained or not. Her aim was to just represent India and bowl fast. That desire to bowl fast remained with me forever.”
When Goswami was starting out, Indian women primarily played 50-overs cricket and four-day first-class cricket. However, with T20s being used as the vehicle to drive women’s cricket around the globe, days’ cricket gradually went out of the calendar. As a result, the way bowlers prepare now is vastly different from how she did.
“As a bowler, cricket is changing day by day and there is more pressure on the bowlers because of the restrictions and how you prepare is the important thing,” Goswami said. “You have to be skillful and it requires effort from the player as well as team. You can’t decide you will play for next 10-12 years. You have to go season by season. You have to be fit, you have to be very strong to take the mental and physical pressure, and have to deliver in crunch situations. Now the girls are very professional and there are decent enough bowlers in this team. I am hopeful of the current bunch playing for a long time.”
Goswami’s career had its share of injuries. She joked that she could have been better off had she been a batter.
“Whenever I got injured, I realised I will be missing the series, [and some] matches [and] had to sit back and not participate,” she said. “But that is what a fast bowler is all about. You will get injured and that is when your character is required for you to come back every time you fall down. I felt then that it would have been better if I had not been a fast bowler. I wished then that I should have been a batter. I would not have had so many injuries.”
With India having sealed the three-match ODI series against England – registering their first series win over the hosts in England since 1999 in the process – the stage is set for Goswami to have a grand exit
. A good individual show will be the icing on the cake.