Jhulan Goswami already had more ODI wickets than anyone else.
Jhulan Goswami had already played in the final of a World Cup.
Jhulan Goswami already had 37 wickets in England and 57 against England.
In other words, Jhulan Goswami had the experience, the talent, the temperament needed to take India across the line in her second World Cup final. And she almost did. She was outstanding with the ball at Lord’s, both new and old, even though she and the rest of the Indian lower-middle order collapsed nine runs short of the target.
But this is not about India’s batting, or the loss or the otherwise path-breaking campaign. This is about Jhulan Goswami, a player that India should celebrate, as captain Mithali Raj pointed out after collecting her runner-up medal.
Before the knockout stage of the World Cup, the seamer had had an ordinary outing, by her standards. She had taken only five wickets in the first seven games. She didn’t look like her threatening self: throwing in those juicy, full deliveries that went straight and struck the pad or timber, whichever came first; or the good length balls that swung just the right fraction to unsettle the batter or the stumps.
But when the big matches arrived, so did the fighter in Goswami. In what is likely to be her last World Cup, India’s strike bowler took five wickets in the next two matches – the semifinal against Australia and final against England. And each of the five wickets were big, crucial, potentially tide-turning dismissals.
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- Over 4.5, Australia 9/1: Goswmai cleans up Meg Lanning, the best batter in women’s cricket today, in a delivery that should be frozen in time and replayed to all young bowlers. Angled, just short of good length, shapes to go straight, clips the stump with a hint of an away movement – the captain walks back on a duck in the tough chase.
- Over 28.3, Australia 148/5: Brought back for her second spell, Goswami strikes on her third ball and gets the big-hitting Alyssa Healy before she can do any damage. She finishes the match with figures of 8-0-35-2.
- Over 32.4, England 146/3: The partnership between Sarah Taylor and Nat Sciver is worth 83 and looks ominous for India. Goswami is brought back and she gets the breakthrough with the wicket of Taylor. The batter tries to play at the delivery going down leg and gets a faint knick that keeper Sushma Verma holds on to low. The stand is broken, she does the job for the captain again.
- Over 32.5, England 146/4: Two wickets in two balls, as Goswami bowls an excellent full, yorker length delivery to the new batter who hasn’t yet settled in, who shuffles before getting rapped on the pads.
- Over 37.1, England 164/5: Goswami changes ends and gets her third, with a cracker of a delivery: straight, good length, pitching just in line and plumb on the pads, as DRS showed. Nat Sciver goes right after her half-century. A big turning point in the match, as she was the top-scorer for England.
Her spell with the old ball at Lord’s was game changing. With the new ball, she was economic with figures of 5-2-9-0, even as England openers Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield put up a strong partnership. But the kicker came when Goswami was brought back after the spinners, to try and break the dangerous stand between Taylor and Sciver. It was this spell that stifled England’s momentum in the batting powerplay and restricted them to 228.
“We didn’t get any early breakthrough and there wasn’t much pace in the wicket, so for me it was about bowling a tight line and length,” Goswami told ICC about her spell. “I tried to bowl in the right areas and not give them much room, they were using the crease and shuffling towards off stump, so we wanted to try and get them to play straight,” she explained.
This was experience talking making the ball talk. This is why the team has relied on her for more than a decade. This was exactly why Raj brought her back and had her bowled out with 10 overs to go.
Goswami finished the match with brilliant figures of 10-3-23-3. Her Lord’s performance took her tally of World Cup wickets to 36, the joint third highest in the record books. Well, with 195 ODI wickets, every dismissal is a record.
But the one record she would have wanted the most at the time – of being the first Indian world Champion team – didn’t come her way. She was out on a golden duck even as the lower-middle order struggled to get the last remaining runs. But the veteran of 164 ODI matches has seen enough setbacks for Indian cricket and sailed through as the flagbearer of the resilient team, to let this get to her.
“The important thing is that nobody from the first day thought we would be a finalist,” she said after the final. “At this moment we must enjoy this journey, the whole team must enjoy the way we played, unfortunately this one was not to go our way.”
For her consistent game-changing performances she has put in since her debut in 2002, for being the most successful fast bowler in the world coming from a country known for spinners, and for so much more that can’t be put into words, Jhulan Goswami should be celebrated.
It’s, after all, not just Indian cricketers that she has inspired.