In the 1997 Women’s World Cup Final at Eden Gardens, Jhulan Goswami was a ball player and was won over by the pace and movement of Australian seamstress Cathryn Fitzpatrick. After this final, the Diego Maradona fan decided that she wanted to play for India one day.
Some two and a half decades later, as Jhulan is about to play her last match for India, she was given a rare honor that eluded even Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman – stepping back onto the pitch and playing the farewell match in the mecca of cricket.
The third ODI between the Women of England and the Women of India at Lord’s on Saturday would be Jhulan’s last. She leaves the international stage as the highest wicket taker in any format for women’s internationals – 353 and one more chance to add to the tally tomorrow. An international career that began in January 2002 has reveled in its regularity. But more importantly, along with Mithali Raj, who bid farewell to the game earlier this year, Jhulan served as a bridge between a generation that had to struggle with indifference towards women’s cricket and the current generation of Smriti Mandhanas, when women’s cricket attracts the eyes of the world. , commercial space and sponsors. When Jhulan started, women’s cricket was not under the BCCI umbrella. Things have changed enough for BCCI to finally launch a women’s IPL in 2023.
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It was no surprise that Jhulan’s final India-themed pre-match press conference, held virtually, was well attended. She was the biggest story in Indian cricket today, edging out the second men’s T20I between India and Australia in Nagpur. The 39-year-old spoke from the heart.
There had been a few injuries over the past two or three years. Jhulan fought them and sometimes played through the pain. Eventually, however, Father Time took over.
“For the last two years I thought every series could be my last, especially with Covid-19 postponing cricket to 2021. I was dealing with a lot of injuries. I took it series by series. After the World Cup (ODI 2022), I thought the Sri Lanka tour might be my last. But during the World Cup I got injured and I wasn’t fit enough to tour Sri Lanka,” Jhulan told the presser, adding: “It’s the last ODI series before the World Cup. T20 and so I thought I would go to the NCA, do a lot of rehab and come to England for my last series.
The brilliant career has a void, and not winning a World Cup hurts. Twice Jhulan came close to crowning glory, in 2005 and again in 2017, when India stumbled on the final hurdle. The 2017 final at Lord’s was a painful memory, with his side losing nine points – so close and yet so far.
“If we had won one, it would have been great for the Indian team and women’s cricket. It is the ultimate goal of every athlete. When you work so hard, you prepare for four years and if you win the trophy “, it’s a dream come true. Unfortunately, we played three finals including the T20 (the 2020 World Cup) but we couldn’t win the final. It hurt feelings and it’s a regret,” she said.
If Ranchi boy MS Dhoni had an untold story, Jhulan’s 20-year journey in international cricket also deserved a biopic. Chakda Xpress is being set up which would go back to the Chakdaha girl roots – taking the first train from the district town – about 80 kilometers from Kolkata – to come to the maidan for training. Jhulan always wanted to play fast and at her peak she recorded over 130 km/h.
“When I started, I never thought I would play for so long. Back then, we were representing the WCAI (Women’s Cricket Association of India), and since 2006, we (have been) under the umbrella of the BCCI I used to take a two and a half hour one way train journey from Chakdaha, train and go home, then come back to train the next day.Of course the best memory was when I represented India; getting my Indian cap from my captain (Anjum Chopra) and bowling for the first time in my career. That was the most important moment of my life,” Jhulan said.
She rewind to the 1997 World Cup final. “As a ball player at the 1997 Women’s World Cup, I saw the final at Eden Gardens between Australia and New Zealand , and that day I dreamed that one day I could represent my country. That’s how I started and tried hard just to represent my country.
As she says goodbye, tributes pour in from all sides. Just a few days ago, India men’s team captain Rohit Sharma raved about the tailoring veteran, recounting his experience of facing her in the net of the NCA and calling Jhulan loyal. “I think she is one of the pillars of India in terms of what she has done for the country,” Rohit had said.
When Jhulan started, women’s cricket in India had virtually no future. Now the future is bright. But will she be part of the razzmatazz? “Whether this (female IPL) announcement officially happens, then I will decide,” Jhulan signed.