All I wanted to do was take one wicket for India: Jhulan Goswami

It’s been a career of two decades and she has scaled every high that there is to scale. From being a ball girl in the 1997 Women’s World Cup final in Kolkata to picking up 600 career wickets and leading India to many memorable victories, Jhulan Goswami has won every personal accolade that there is to win. What’s missing from her cabinet is a World Cup trophy. And that’s why she is in New Zealand. To give it a final crack. To try one final time and do it for her country. Jhulan talks to Boria Majumdar about her long and successful career and what this upcoming World Cup means to her. Excerpts

How do you look at the upcoming ODI World Cup?

We have all been waiting for this moment for years. We know how important the tournament is and we will give it our best. We know how close we were in 2017. And it is not something anyone can ever forget. Having said that this is yet another opportunity for us to do what we all are here for: to win the ultimate prize for the country. We have a very good unit. The recent results notwithstanding, we are all ready for the tournament. We have a nice mix of youth and experience and our big tournament record is very good.

You have said that this is your last World Cup. How do you look back at it all?

When I started out in my career, I had never imagined I would play for 20 years. I had not thought I would pick up over 600 (career) wickets or win matches for India. I had never in my dreams thought I would be playing in two World Cup finals (2017 ODI World Cup and 2020 T20 World Cup). All I wanted to do was take that one wicket for India, get that India jersey for myself so that I could always say I have represented my country. For a girl who used to play the sport after her brothers had finished playing, to think of all these achievements is impossible. All I have done is worked the hardest I could have and do the best I could have. The rest have fallen in place.

India have played good cricket in the last couple of World Cups. Finalist in 2017 ODI World Cup, finalist in 2020 T20 World Cup. Does that experience count?

Absolutely. You know the big stage and you also know you can do well at the big stage. In 2017, a lot of our players were relatively new. Now they are all much more experienced and have won matches for India. They have played and done well under pressure. All these things help when you play in the World Cup.

his team has a good balance of experience and talent.

Yes. The openers have done very well. In Shafali (Verma) and Smriti (Mandhana) we have two real match winners. If one of them fire, we are off to a flier. Mithali is a legend. It’s been an honour to play with her for 20 years and she will want to win that trophy for the country. Harmanpreet (Kaur) and Deepti (Sharma) have the experience and in Yastika (Bhatia) and Richa (Ghose) we have two very good youngsters. Our batting is all set at the moment. In bowling, too, we have a very good balance. Meghna (Singh) is doing well and we have Pooja (Vastrakar). The spin department is well taken care of. We are a team that has a real shot at the title. Also, we have played England in England and done well. We have played Australia in Australia and done well. We have had the chance of playing a number of matches in New Zealand conditions. That’s what it is all about. The next one month is going to be huge for Indian cricket.

Last year in Australia, you went through two completely opposite extremes. In the second ODI, you bowled a no ball on the final ball and then in the thrid ODI, you won the match for India with a last-ball four. Tell us about the hours between that no ball and the boundary. How do you deal with such highs and lows?

We should have won that match. 274 in women’s cricket is a very good score and should have been defended. The ball was really wet and literally impossible to grip. We weren’t used to bowling in those conditions and that impacted us. I couldn’t sleep that night. Stayed awake till 3:30 am and was pacing up and down the room. I was riddled with self-doubt and couldn’t come to terms with the defeat. I was blaming myself for letting the team down. Somehow I slept off and woke up around 10:30 am the next morning. Within minutes of waking up, Harman and Smriti called me and said they were waiting for me in the lobby and they were taking me out for breakfast. They did not give me a chance to think. I have my own routine on pre-match days but they were insistent I break the routine. At breakfast they said it was time to forget what had happened and I would be the one to win India the third game. It felt good. When your teammates say such things to you it makes a huge difference. I could gather my thoughts again and started to focus on the job at hand. I had to overcome all the negativity and think about the next game. It was an opportunity and I had to make the most of it.

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