Jhulan Goswami landed in Kolkata on Monday morning after a long flight from England. As she walked out of the airport, fans and the officials of the Cricket Association of Bengal ensured that she received a rousing welcome.
It’s been barely 72 hours since she played her last international game for India and for Goswami, it is yet to sink in that she will no longer don the blue jersey. Since reaching home, she has been flooded with phone calls and WhatsApp messages from friends, family and colleagues congratulating her on an incredible career.
While she plans to unwind for the next few days and enjoy Durga Puja festivities with the family, Goswami hasn’t thought of her next move yet. Speaking to Sportstar, the 39-year-old talks about her retirement, the road ahead and also touched upon the ‘spirit of cricket’, which has yet again become a talking point since Deepti Sharma ran Charlie Dean out at the non-striker’s end at Lord’s on Saturday.
It has been a couple of days since you played your last international game. Has it sunk in yet that you will never don the India colours again?
No, it hasn’t yet sunk in, to be honest. Maybe I am still in that zone. Until this morning I was travelling back with team-mates. Now, there are so many people around me and we are all talking about cricket, so I haven’t had a chance to think much. So maybe, once things settle in, I will perhaps realise that I have retired. I know there is bound to be a vacuum because this is something I have been doing for the last twenty years, so when you leave that, it is quite natural that you will feel different.
You have always believed in planning things properly. So, have you thought about your next move?
It’s too early to think about the next move. Look, during my playing days, things were under my control, so I could decide when to practice, how to plan things, but now, things are not entirely in my control. So, I have to weigh my options and then pick and choose. Let’s see what are the options available.
With the Women’s IPL scheduled to be held next year, do we see you in action again?
The BCCI hasn’t formally announced anything about the Women’s IPL, so let things be formalised and then we can think over it. But then, it also needs to be seen whether anyone wants to pick me in their team (laughs), so you have to factor in a lot of things. It does not entirely depend on me, so we will have to wait and see how things pan out and if and where I fit in.
Ahead of the final match, you accompanied Harmanpreet Kaur for the toss. Were you aware of such a thing being planned by the team-mates? Did they inform you earlier?
No, I was not aware of it earlier. Just before the game, the team manager came and told me that I will have to accompany Harman for the toss. I was surprised and asked, “why?”. He said that it was decided by the team and Harman. It was something new and was certainly a lovely gesture by the team. I enjoyed that moment thoroughly. I did not think that something like that would happen, but it felt really good.
This was also a historic series win for the Indian team. In 1999, the ODI team had beaten England in its den 2-1, but this time, Harmanpreet-led side made it a clean sweep. What was the mood in the camp post the series win?
It was special because when I made my debut in 2002, we defeated England 5-0 on our home turf. And, defeating England at home is also a huge deal and I am glad that I was part of the team on both the occasions. Prior to the series, the girls were really excited and they wanted to win it for me. Harman and Smriti (Mandhana) had already said that they wanted to win the series for their beloved ‘Jhulu di’, so the entire team took things seriously and started believing that they need to put in that extra effort to clinch the series.
After the match, did you have a discussion with the youngsters? What was your advice for them?
Not just the juniors, I addressed the entire team. I told them a few things that I feel, but of course, I will not reveal those dressing room conversations in public. But it was a general discussion.
When you look back, what is that special moment in your career that you will always cherish?
It is difficult to pick just one moment. There were so many special moments in my career, the first will obviously be that day when I made my debut for India. Donning the India colours and giving your best efforts was an incredible feeling. I still remember that moment when the national anthem was being played before the game, and I have no words to describe those feelings. It had a different charm.
The win in England in 2014 will also remain special. Obviously, receiving the first ICC award was incredible. I have had the honour of leading the Indian team and it was a dream come true moment for me. But I feel that the way we played in the 2017 World Cup changed the face of Indian women’s cricket. Being part of that team was an honour and I will always cherish each and every moment spent with the team and by tam-mates.
When you bowled that last over, you looked very emotional. What was going on in your mind?
Before the final delivery, I kept telling myself that I have to bowl it well, maintaining the right line and length. Obviously, I knew that I was bowling for the last time, donning the blue jersey, so it was an emotional roller-coaster. Obviously, after the last delivery, the girls came and hugged me. I was pretty low at that time emotionally. I had to control myself and I kept telling myself, “don’t show your emotions. Please control…”
The match was at a crucial juncture and had I shown my emotions, then it could have broken the momentum and would have hampered our focus. So, I had to control myself. But at the end, when the players carried me on their shoulders and gave a rousing send-off, I really enjoyed that moment. It was a huge honour.
Most cricketers from the current team took up the sport watching you and Mithali Raj. Over the two decades, you spearheaded the fast bowling department, and now, do you think that the next line is ready? Is the bowling department in safe hands?
Of course, Indian cricket is in safe hands. There is no doubt about that. The bowling department has done very well with Renuka, Meghna Singh, Pooja (Vastrakar) around. Even the spinners have performed well.
They have done reasonably well in every tournament - they defeated Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka and the bowling department had a huge role to play. The bowling unit performed very well at the Commonwealth Games, and even in England, after a decent outing in T20s, they came back strongly in ODIs.
I feel that these girls need to be taken care of well and the more they play, they will only get better.