While the Indian fans were busy outraging over the series loss to Bangladesh and worrying about the impending Zimbabwe tour which will overburden the team which has been playing continuous cricket since October last year, India’s women’s team was playing their first ODI since November 2014 when they lost to SA women by 4 wickets. The five ODI and three match T20 series began on 28th June. The series is really important for India because they find themselves at the bottom of the table and need the points to be able to qualify for the 2017 Women’s World Cup.
The match took place at the Chinaswamy Stadium, the stadium famous for its short boundaries and being a batsman’s haven. What was noteworthy were the empty stands and the sponsor deprived boundary ropes. But this didn’t deter the team who is used to playing under these conditions. For whom any kind of international exposure is a gift from the gods. So when Mithali Raj, the skipper of the Indian team, won the toss and chose to bat first, the inexperience of the team showed in their poor shot selections and succumbing under pressure. At a stage, India were 52-5 when Jhulan Goswami took the responsibility upon herself to take the team to safe waters. 90 runs were added to the team total while she was on crease out of which 57 were scored by her. This also became her maiden ODI fifty. It came after playing in 139 matches and at the time when the team needed it the most.
What started out as a game of tennis ball cricket with the boys in the neighbourhood became a lifelong passion for her. The boys thought her bowling was slow and would ask her to just bat. Guess who had the last laugh when she became the world’s fastest woman bowler in 2006. Currently she ranks the first in the ICC ODI Player ranking for bowlers. For a country that constantly complains about the pace attack in the men’s team has no time to acknowledge the gem we have in the women’s team.
She started training at a young age of 15 which involved 80 kms of daily travelling. Waking up at 4:30 in the morning to catch the train so that she could reach the practice ground on time, she also had to face the reluctance of her parents to let her become a cricketer. But she had already decided that this becoming a cricketer is what she wanted to do wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Daily travelling of 5 hours, practicing, followed by keeping up with her studies could make anyone strong. She hasn’t looked back since making her debut in 2002 against England. From winning the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year award in 2007 to the Arjuna Award in 2010 to the Padma Shri in 2012, she has done it all. She currently holds the record for the most number of wickets by an Indian bowler. She even took over the captaincy from Mithali Raj in 2008 and led India in 25 matches with a win percentage of 25%.
In today’s match after she had done the added job of taking India to a respectable total, her real job started when the teams took field again in the second innings. Even though her first spell didn’t lead to any wickets, it was enough to create pressure on the New Zealand team who succumbed to 22-2 after 10 overs. After that it was the spinners’ show through and through who took 7 wickets between them. Her skipper used her again in the powerplay when she replied with a maiden over thereby creating the NZ eves. When she wasn’t bowling she was fielding in the slips. And all the while she was encouraging her team to do better. The moment of the match was when a Harmanpreet delivery was called a wide but the debutant RV Kalpana couldn’t collect it in time thereby allowing the opposition an extra run, Goswami went up to her to calm her down and told her it’s okay. That’s what you’d expect a senior player to do and she played her role to perfection. This player from East Bengal has been playing her role to perfection since 2002.