Jhulan Goswami became the first bowler to take 200 wickets in Women’s One-Day Internationals when she had South Africa’s Laura Wolvaardt caught behind by Sushma Verma at the Diamond Oval in Kimberley on Wednesday (February 7). Her stature as a cricketer since her India debut in 2002 is well documented, but it is her warm personality that makes her one of the most likeable characters in the circuit. Wisden India spoke to a few people who have closely interacted with her to get their impression of Goswami.
(Current opening bowling partner in the Indian team)
I will always remember that I was bowling from the other end when Jhulu di took her 200th wicket. It was a short of good length ball that kicked from the surface and caught Laura by surprise. I think she wanted to cover drive on the rise, but eventually managed only an outside edge to the wicketkeeper.
She has been my idol growing up as a kid, and it was a dream come true to have received my India cap from her in 2014. I first met her when she led me in India Green during the 2010 Challenger Trophy. She was so friendly, humble, kind and welcoming to me as a youngster. It’s both easy and difficult at the same time to be bowling with her in tandem as you have to keep up to her standards. So far our best partnership has been the performance against Australia in the 2017 World Cup semifinal in Derby where we dismissed the top four batters. The way she stood up and inspired the team to up our game in the virtual quarterfinal against New Zealand, semifinal against Australia and final against England stands out for me. Her performance in the final where she brought us back into the game with those three wickets in her second spell is probably the best of her that I have watched. She is the ultimate role model for me for the kind of hard work she puts in every time she is on the field. And off the field, she is such a humble person.
I was her roommate in the camp we had in Alur before the Qualifier in Colombo last year when she was ruled out because of a muscle tear on her right shoulder. She told me that now I don’t just have to look into my game, but also guide youngsters as the kind of exposure they have had is minimal. That made me feel more responsible.
Balwinder Singh Sandhu
(Bowling coach at NCA when Goswami worked with him in 2014)
I was in charge of an age-group side at the NCA when Brijesh Patel told me about Jhulan. Shantha Rangaswamy must have arranged for it. Jhulan had just come back from the 2014 World T20 in Bangladesh, and had developed bad habits. She was not able to cut the ball and not able to generate swing as the wrist was not behind the ball.
She used to come all the way there to Alur to work with me. We worked on her wrist position for around 10-15 days. We spoke about locking of the wrist, keeping the finger behind the ball, her action, the balance, line and length and all those things. I told her to keep working on the key parameters and cues. I had given her a checklist. She picked up what I taught her, but I told her that things couldn’t be rectified in a short time. Credit should go to her because she followed everything and was determined to sort out her bowling. She is very motivated and ambitious and passionate about the game, very important for a player. At the same time, she is a very down-to-earth person. She had a nice action, and she is tall. I remember telling her the need to improve her fitness and get stronger in order to continue for long.
I also gave some other mental tips like trying to remember her best performances, her routine from the morning till the game starts, how she felt energy-wise, mentally and physically. She had to get into the mood to perform at her best. She was mature enough to understand what I was saying. She is khadoos like Mumbai cricketers.
(Former India wicketkeeper)
She is the only (pace) bowler I enjoyed keeping to because of her bounce and carry. As a wicketkeeper, I used to communicate with her in signals at times. But she could read the batters easily because of her experience. Maybe I gave some inputs, but the major part of the job was done by her. Moreover, we had a very good relationship because we work for the same company, Air India. We are more than teammates.
One of the performances that stood out for me is the match-haul of ten wickets when we beat England in the Taunton Test in 2006, and won the series. She had already picked up eight wickets, and two were remaining. She was slightly injured. I think she had hamstring or a glute issue. I was standing at slip on that occasion. I said that this is one rare occasion to take ten wickets. She went back to the dressing room, got herself treated and got back to the field to pick up those two wickets. Anjum (Chopra) di also pushed her in that phase.
(Now a media professional, she played six of her ten matches for India under Goswami’s captaincy)
Jhulu di the person is very welcoming. As a young bowler, she is exactly what you need in the team, not only in terms of guidance or in terms of skills, but also in terms of hand around the shoulder, confidence boost. Somebody to talk to when you are not liking things that are happening both on and off the field. She made an extra effort to make newcomers welcome. She is the one who broke new grounds for pace bowlers in India.
I remember the third-place play-off match of the T20 Quadrangular series in 2011 against New Zealand when she won us the game with the bat. We were chasing 96, but were in a difficult position when she came in. She stuck around and won us the match with an unbeaten 33. She was the captain then. As it is I was a major fan of her, but that gave me another reason to admire her.
Observing her as captain, what I learnt is that no matter where you start you can always build on your skills and end on a high. She is a small town girl from some part of Bengal which people have not heard of. She did not really have great communication skills then, but adapted well when she became the captain.
(A legendary spinner and the first Indian to take 100 wickets in ODIs; currently India’s second-highest wicket-taker)
Every wicket she has taken has almost all been at crucial times, and most of them have come against quality oppositions. Her spells in the must-win league game and semifinal of the 2005 World Cup were wonderful. You can say she rose to the occasion. When we used to discuss about bowling, the best thing was that we were able to implement. The success we used to achieve together as a unit gave us a lot of happiness. The spinners benefitted tremendously from her because she used to provide initial breakthrough, and it used to make things easier for us.
She took her 100th wicket in the 2008 Asia Cup final. We were happy, but we did not know then what it meant. We never understood the importance of it. Now when we look back we realise how big a milestone it was.
She was our junior, so we used to pull her leg. But she used to respect us a lot, and we never made her or anyone else feel like juniors. We treated them all like our kids. Once during the tour of New Zealand in 2003 she had brought ladoos made by her mom. For some reason she was not taking it out, but Reema Malhotra, her roommate, informed us. A few of us somehow managed to steal the entire box, and kept just one ladoo for her. She got really angry. As a teammate and a player she is superb. As a human being, she is very good. Even today she works really hard to keep to the standards of current generation. Nothing has changed from the time she made her debut.
(The pacer opened the bowling with Goswami between 2008 and 2016)
As a senior player, she does not hesitate coming and helping you out in nets and matches. She comes and speaks to me what can be done. I was her roommate early in my career, and she was very encouraging. Even when I was her opponent in the Challenger Trophy, she used to come up to me and discuss about my bowling.
Once during a practice game against New Zealand at the Bandra Kurla Complex Ground in Mumbai before the 2013 World Cup, she was fielding at fine-leg but noted that my non-bowling arm was not coming down fully. She told me this in the middle of an over, and two balls later I got a wicket.
She taught me how to bowl the slower ones. Once in the Adelaide T20I against Australia in January 2016, I bowled well in my first two overs, but got hit for 17 runs in the first four balls of my third over – the 19th of the innings. I was bowling length balls. She immediately ran up to me and said to bowl yorkers. I did that, and conceded just two runs after that. Despite me getting hit, Mithali (Raj, the captain) and Jhulan backed me and I played the next game.
(Goswami’s bowling partner for a long time)
She is a special bowler because she has five-wicket hauls across three formats. No other Indian has this record. For a pace bowler to keep improving over 16 years is a big thing. The journey itself is special. All her performances are memorable, but the 2006 tour of England was her best. She bowled superbly in Tests, ODIs and the one-off T20I. The way she controlled the ball was amazing.
For most parts of my career I opened the bowling with her. I felt less pressure because I knew Jhulan will handle things at her end. She was pacier and I am more of a swing bowler. So, we complemented each other. The game against New Zealand in South Gate in 2011 where she took six wickets, she was getting the ball to cut both ways if my memory serves me right. The weather was cloudy, and conditions were helpful. She is, however, a special bowler who can perform on any kind of pitch or conditions.
During the later stages of my career when Mithali was the captain, she used to get a single room. So, more often than not, Jhulan and I were roommates. She has this habit of snoring in her sleep, but she never accepted it. One night I recorded her snoring on my mobile phone and showed it to everyone in the team the next day.