Our team has a lot of spark, we just need to cross the final hurdle: Jhulan Goswami

Jhulan Goswami in action © Getty Images

Most number of wickets in ODIs, the most number of wickets in World Cup history, Jhulan Goswami has almost achieved every milestone that a young cricketer would dream of. But even after achieving it all, the Chakdaha Express is not willing to take a halt. So what is keeping her going? What is the reason why she is still playing for India?

Well, if you have followed her career trail then you know the answer. In a career spanning over two decades, Goswami has had incredible individual success. She has won countless tournaments for India. But one title that still eludes her is a World Cup trophy. With the ongoing World Cup probably going to be her last, Goswami is determined to clinch it for her side and leave no stone unturned while doing so.

In a chat with Women’s CricZone ahead of the tournament, Goswami reflected on her international cricketing journey, playing in bio-secure bubbles, the support from family members, India’s chances in the ongoing World Cup and so much more.

Excerpts:

Q: How do you reflect on your two-decade-long journey in international cricket?

It has been a simple journey. Playing for India was never on my mind when I had started my career. I never wanted to study much, just wanted to enjoy the game. While I was watching the 1997 World Cup I realised that this is the sport that I want to play for the rest of my life. And obviously when you play for a longer period of time milestones follow. But what matters the most is that you get to represent your country at a stretch. It just doesn’t feel like I have been playing for the last two decades. It feels like the journey has just started.

Q: How big a challenge is playing in bio-secure bubbles?

Bubble life is a huge challenge. We didn’t know that we will have to wait for an entire year to take the field again. Initially, we thought that it (bio-secure bubbles) was going to be a temporary thing. But as we started going from bubble to bubble that’s when it struck us. When you are in a bubble you get completely isolated. You get completely cut off from your friends and family members. With all the talk around bubble life, people tend to forget the mandatory quarantine period. The days of quarantine vary from one country to another. In some countries, it’s ten while in others it’s for 15 days and that takes a toll on you mentally.

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Q: How did you and the other senior players in the side ensure that the bubble fatigue doesn’t get to the youngsters?

During our Australia tour last year, we experienced very stringent quarantine protocols. We weren’t allowed to venture outside our rooms. We couldn’t even have face-to-face interactions. Hence we decided to have team bonding sessions virtually. We used to ask the likes of Jemi (Jemimah Rodrigues), Richa (Richa Ghosh), Harleen (Harleen Deol), Shafali (Shafali Verma), Radha (Radha Yadav), and other youngsters to come up with fun activities. And then we used to get together on Zoom calls and engage in a lot of fun segments.

Those fun segments on Zoom allowed the youngsters in the team to open up to the seniors and even dish the dirt on some of their teammates. The virtual fun sessions that we had helped us to show a lot of character during the whole tour.

There is already a dearth of matches that we play as a bunch and hence we can’t let the quarantine protocols and bubble fatigue get to us and spoil our performances.

Jhulan Goswami has played over 200 ODIs for India © Getty Images

Q: What are India’s chances in the ongoing World Cup?

We have an excellent group of cricketers. We have a lot of exciting youngsters in Shafali, Richa among others. And at the same time, we have a lot of senior players like Mithali (Raj), myself, Harman (Harmanpreet Kaur), Smriti (Mandhana). There is a perfect balance of youth and experience in the side at the moment. In the last five years we have featured in two World Cup finals, yeah obviously the format has been different. So the unit indeed has a lot of spark, we just need to cross the final hurdle.

As a ball girl, I saw Belinda Clark’s team take the victory lap after winning the 1997 World Cup final at the Eden Gardens. We want to replicate the same. We are eager to win the Cup to set an example for all the young girls out there so that they take up the sport and take the legacy forward.

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Q: You are the leader of the Indian bowling attack and it’s been more than two decades now. You are always expected to dismiss the big batters from the opposition. Do you enjoy the responsibility or does it become too much to take at times?

To be very honest the pressure to perform and to live up to everyone’s expectations is always there. But I really enjoy my tussle with the best batters in the world. There are days when they dominate and I miss out. But then there are days when I send them packing. I really enjoy coming up with different game plans and executing them in the matches.

With the quality of batters around you need to have a plan ‘B’ in your kitty always. You can’t always rely on your plan ‘A’ because it’s bound to fail in the longer run. I firmly believe that bowlers set the tone in matches. Yes, obviously the role of a batter is very crucial but I believe that a lot goes into being a skillful bowler whether its a lot of planning or implementation.

Q: This could also turn out to be Mithali Raj’s last World Cup. She has been a great player for India. Your thoughts on Mithali.

I first met Mithali when I was playing the Under-19 Zone matches. She had just returned from a tour to England and someone introduced me to her and told me that she is an India player. And I said hello to her, that’s how we met each other. It’s been an absolute honour playing alongside her. She is a legend of the game. I remember when she was announced the vice-captain of the side, she taught us how to fight against quality teams. She has contributed immensely to women’s cricket. She is someone who constantly thinks about the team and always talks to the youngsters in the team.

Q: How has your family supported you throughout your career?

Definitely, my family’s contribution has been immense. They have done a lot of sacrifices just for me. My family is my backbone and my pillar of strength. I owe a lot to them.