She shrugs her shoulders, throws a glance at the striker, moves a fielder finer, studies the figure at the other end with a deliberate delay in her stride before launching into an athletic approach that captures the essence of her work – a fast bowler who can rattle the opposition with her speed. Jhulan Goswami can frequently hurl the ball at 120 kph, enough to hustle the most compact batswomen in the business.
“Please correct your impression if you think that girls are only delicate. They are elegant and sometimes lazy but not delicate. We can be the toughest people around and take on the most challenging assignments,” says the lanky bowler who travelled 80 km daily from Chakdaha to Kolkata when chasing her dream to play for India.
“Cricket?” her elders howled. But Jhulan ignored the jibes and left home at 4.30 every morning. “If I missed the train I missed a day in my life,” she remembers the grind. At the nets in Kolkata, she had a strict regimen to follow. “I had to bowl to five batsmen. I never asked why. I just bowled.” Later she discovered it was an exercise for her to add pace to her skills, develop accuracy and improve arm speed and muscle memory. From tennis ball cricket with cousins to proper cricket was “awesome” in her words.
Former India captain Anjum Chopra raves, “She has been one of the hard working and talented players, and made sure she did not waste her time. She came from a place with zero facilities and is among the top three in the world. She is quick and accurate.”
“Honestly I never thought of bowling fast. I used to enjoy tennis ball cricket with my cousins and I did was turn the arm over,” Jhulan says. A trip to the Eden Gardens for the World Cup women’s final in 1997 (between Australia and New Zealand) was the first time Jhulan saw women playing cricket.
“I had just heard but never seen. I fell in love with the game that day.” She is a figure of inspiration now in women’s cricket.
“International cricket is all about how you handle the pressure and the ups and downs. This experience of how to come back makes you strong. You should be able to control your emotions. I have been through many rough patches and it is a continuing process. I came from a village and learnt that I must do well professionally to make the most of my hard work. I am glad I could give a good life to my family.”
Recognition, Jhulan realises, is important. “Unless you perform you won’t get recognised. It is inter-related. I always jot down memories of my good days. And bad days too. Comparing them gives me the solution on what to avoid. In this world, you have to chart your own course,” asserts Jhulan, who was adjudged the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year in 2007.
She appeals to cricket lovers, “BCCI has given us Central Contracts and that is a massive help but we need support of the people. We promise entertaining cricket if they come and support us.” She will have their backing when India takes on Australia in its last league match of the 2016 ICC World Tweny20 at Mohali on Sunday.
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