There is a wish, a dream for a player to play cricket for India. A wish, a dream that one day you get to play at the ‘Mecca of cricket’ – Lord’s cricket ground. One will find this on the wish list of nearly every player who has ever played this beautiful game called cricket.
Jhulan Goswami got to live this wish and dream – to play cricket for India at Lord’s cricket ground. The wish that gets extended in a near perfect script for her that will see her call time on her illustrious long career at the ‘Home of Cricket’ – Lord’s.
Not many cricketers in the present time or past have had this luxury of picking their time of exit, leave aside ideating the venue of their last outing. In the women’s game it is almost negligible; the number that comes to mind of such retirees. She is fortunate!
A young, tall, skinny girl with longish hair gets ready to bowl on top of her run up. She approaches the wickets with a smooth run up and bowls fast. My first recollection of Jhulan Goswami as I saw her play in the match in a women’s first-class cricket tournament in early 2000. A woman player who is tall and bowls fast in India is not difficult to catch attention; considering it remains a rarity even today. But the attention that Jhulan received was not undue. It was the beginning of a long journey from Chakdaha to Lord’s.
It will be fair to say that from the most formative years till date I have known Jhulan from close quarters. From the very first day Jhulan walked into her first senior camp, which I think was in Chandigarh; we hit off really well. The respect, faith, trust and the openness about our respective games we shared was special. It was a very good batch of us players around that enjoyed each other’s company very well as we ended up sharing a lot of time away from our families. The common goal and driving force being wearing India colours and winning matches for India.
Jhulan was a good junior. She was like a sponge, absorbing as much as she could. Be it social skills or cricketing awareness, she was a keen and quick learner. She joined Air India on a contract and we were teammates there too before her debut in Chennai against England where I debuted as India Captain. As I recall that day, two decades back it is still seeming fresh in memory. Growing up years I used to fancy cricketers who recounted their stories, didn’t realise I will be doing the same one day.
Jhulan went on to Captain India and that too in a world cup, two in fact. We have had our share of disagreements and arguments but with someone who I have shared a room with, before the single room luxury arrived, one fact has not changed- She is very disciplined. One cannot have a long career with injuries and yet turn up to run in quick, bowl fast, accurately and pick wickets without proper discipline. A fast bowler’s body toils hard to remain relevant. The focus to play for India is the driving force but the passion needs constant practice.
India women played their first ever match at Lord’s cricket ground in 2006. This was after the women’s game came under the BCCI banner. Jhulan was part of that team. She has played a few times after that too at Lord’s and made special memories. The notable one being the 2017 women’s world cup final against England.
I know Lord’s has a special place in her heart. While we were like kids in a candy store in 2006; we always hoped to carry India to a world cup win at the historic venue. It didn’t happen in 2005 in Centurion, South Africa nor could it be achieved in 2017 in England.
The journey that started as an international cricketer against England women in 2002 will culminate against the same opposition at the Home of Cricket, Lord’s. It might not be the winning world cup trophy in hand for Jhulan but the series win for India after 23 years will be a good send off for a true champion and a legend. She leaves behind a legacy for countless times to be emulated as India awaits its next young, tall, skinny Jhulan�
(Anjum Chopra is a former captain of the Indian women’s cricket team. The views expressed here are personal)