Sunil Gavaskar column: Jhulan Goswami, a stalwart of women’s cricket

Jhulan Goswami has inspired a generation of women to take up cricket. She showed that Indian women can also bowl fast and take wickets in all kinds of conditions.

Standing ovation: Jhulan Goswami’s popularity can be seen by the fact that even the England team gave her a guard of honour when she came in to bat in her final match.

Standing ovation: Jhulan Goswami’s popularity can be seen by the fact that even the England team gave her a guard of honour when she came in to bat in her final match. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Jhulan Goswami has inspired a generation of women to take up cricket. She showed that Indian women can also bowl fast and take wickets in all kinds of conditions.

The Indian women’s team gave Jhulan Goswami a terrific send-off by winning the third One-Day International and with it making a clean sweep of the series against England. Jhulan has been one of the stalwarts of the Indian women’s team and one of the main inspirations for a generation of women to take up cricket. She showed that Indian women can also bowl fast and take wickets in all kinds of conditions. Her popularity can be seen by the fact that even the England team gave her a guard of honour when she came out to bat in her final match. When the match ended, India captain Harmanpreet Kaur got emotional and embraced her star bowler. That also showed how well-liked the tall girl from Bengal was.

Winning all the three matches showed how far the Indian women’s team has come over the last few years. England and Australia used to be the main stumbling blocks for the Indian women’s team. Australia still is, particularly when it comes to the knockout games, unless there is an exceptional innings like the one Harmanpreet Kaur played in the 2017 World Cup when she single-handedly defeated Australia with a superb 171. Since then, the wins over Australia have been few and far between and that is something that this Indian team will be looking to rectify just as the Indian men’s team did on two consecutive tours of Australia.

The tone for the series win was set by the skipper Harmanpreet with a magnificent 143 where she literally toyed with the English bowling. She had good support from the top-order batters as well. While Smriti Mandhana and Shefali Verma were not their usual consistent self, it was their skipper who played outstandingly in all the matches.

Getting to 300 runs is never easy, but the Indian team did that, thanks to the skipper’s brilliant innings. At one stage, when they had England nine wickets down, with more than 120 runs to get, one was hoping that the margin of victory would be more than 100 runs. That didn’t happen because the last two Englishwomen threw their bats around and got the deficit down to 88. Still it is a massive margin of victory.

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Towards the end, the one-day series became a little controversial when Deepti Sharma, seeing the English batter out of the crease at the non-striker’s end, removed the bails and got her run-out. The English batter who was on 47 was clearly trying to take the advantage by leaving the crease early to get to the striker’s end.

While the debate about the dismissal will continue, the laws of the game and the rules are very clear that the batter has to stay within the crease till the ball has been released by the bowler. It is quite funny to read the reactions of some English players who were talking about the spirit of the game — the same players who did not leave the crease when caught at slip! But then that is what is to be expected.

There was another special innings when Pakistani skipper Babar Azam scored a brilliant hundred and he and his opening partner Mohammad Rizwan were unseparated while chasing down 200 to win the T20 game against England. Scoring a half-century in T20 cricket is very difficult and rare but to score a hundred just tells you how well the batter would have played.

The India-Australia series also ended with India winning and Rohit Sharma keeping his unbeaten record intact. He scored a blistering 43 not out in the curtailed match in Nagpur. But it is still important for Rohit to play the kind of long innings that can give India the flying start that they are looking for.

India, fortunately, have in Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya, great finishers and with Kohli coming and striking the ball well and scoring runs, there isn’t much to worry about the Indian batting as the team proceeds for the T20 World Cup in Australia in a couple of week’s time. It’s the bowling that is the concern. While India is very good at chasing as has been seen for years, defending big totals has been the problem as was seen in the first T20, in which Australia chased 210 to get a win. If there are wickets in hand, the last five are generally the overs when the batters throw their bat and try and score 10 runs or more an over. That is exactly what is happening with the Indian bowling, particularly when they are defending a total. That is an area where they have to really work on. They have to zero-in on who their bowlers are going to be in those final few overs. In the third and final T20 game in Hyderabad, Harshal Patel bowled a superb final over and that is pretty heartening because he is making a comeback after an injury and it is never easy in such a scenario to be able to strike a rhythm straightaway.

India’s win will give the team a lot of confidence but there is still a three-match T20 series again South Africa. When you beat the world champion, Australia, then obviously you enter the next series with a lot more confidence.

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