Jhulan Goswami. The name needs no introduction. The name reminds of some legendary and memorable performances to the cricket fans.
The cricket fans who have closely followed the women’s game during the early 2000’s before the recent buzz know the real value of the name. The living legend of women’s game have achieved some enviable records and provided Indian women’s cricket team some truly successful moments to cherish. Born in a middle-class Bengali family at Chakdah in West Bengal Jhulan Goswami is one of those influential names that pushed fans to realize the worth of the women’s cricket since last few years.
It was Belinda Clarke’s double century at Eden Gardens in 1997 that inspired Jhulan to consider cricket as a serious career option and her first Coach Swapan Shadhu was an instrumental force to turn her dreams into reality. It was Mr. Sadhu who convinced Jhulan’s parents and insisted Jhulan to focus on her bowling more rather than batting. Jhulan’s career graph is now a testimony why he did so.
Like her idol Cathryn Fitzpatrick from Australia, Jhulan was also the fastest bowler in the world during her peak. Most fittingly, Fitzpatrick’s record of highest women’s one day international wicket was broken by Jhulan with her 181st wicket. Jhulan did not stop there and till date she has 207 wickets in ODI. In the process she became the first women cricketer ever to reach the 200 wicket milestone in ODIs. Combining Tests, ODIs and T20 internationals, Jhulan’s tally of 1700 plus runs and more than 300 wickets are unique. This shows her consistency and indicates how she has led the bowling for Indian women’s team for last 15-16 years.
India’s tour of Ireland and England in 2006 was a memorable one as it was India’s first test series win in England. And in both the matches key contributions were made by Jhulan. In the first test at Leicester Jhulan led the bowling attack and took 5 wickets combining two innings. Not only that, in India’s first innings Jhulan came as a night watchman and scored a gritty 69 consisted of four 4s and ensured that India took a lead over England’s first innings total.
Jhulan did even better in the second test at Taunton. After India’s first innings was over for 307, she came all guns blazing and after a magnificent bowling performance ended at 5 wickets for 33 runs. The strong English team with players like Claire Taylor, Sarah Taylor and captain Charlotte Edwards was rolled over for just 99 runs and forced to follow on. Although England did much better in their second innings, highlighted by a wonderful century from Edwards, Jhulan again picked up 5 wickets to finish the game with 10 for 78. With target of 98 to chase Indian eves reached there with 5 wickets to spare and won the test and the series. It was an immensely proud moment for the players and surely would have been celebrated more if this would happen in current scenario.
Jhulan ended with the player of the series award. Not only that, bigger awards were waiting for her as she was recognized in 2007 ICC awards as the ‘Best Women’s Cricketer’ of the year. She was the first Indian cricketer to win this prestigious award and grabbed quite a few eyeballs then.
Jhulan has served the nation for last 16 years and been a part of a transitional period. From more of an unprofessional structure with minimum benefits and logistic arrangements when she began to the current state when BCCI has launched contract for women players and taken care of the infrastructure more keenly, it was a long journey.
She was part of two world cup finals in 2005 and 2017. She witnessed how audience has changed in between those two world cups. She has seen how they have also started making differences for the cricket fans. In 2005 the cricket fans were hardly aware of Jhulan and co. playing the world cup final. In 2017 they shed tears for the team. She has seen this transition closely. Jhulan has not won a world cup yet and she is not sure about playing 2021 world cup. According to her, for medium pace bowlers things become uncertain due to injuries. Recently she has retired from Twenty 20 cricket just before the world cup in England; and it is clear how much India missed her experience in the tournament. The leading wicket taker in ODI women’s cricket will probably not win a world cup ever but no award can ever be enough for the performances delivered and success achieved by greats like Jhulan, Mithali Raj, Anjum Chopra amidst all the struggles since they have played the key role to bring in the much needed change that women cricket deserves.