Born in a middle-class family at Chakdah in Nadia district of West Bengal on 25th November 1982- Jhulan Nishit Goswami is one such cricketer who hardly needs any introduction. Her journey in international cricket may have crossed a decade and a half now but her passion for the game hasn’t changed one bit.
In fact, her hunger to do well for the nation has increased with every passing day. Last month in front of a full house at the home of cricket- Lord’s, the Indian team may have remained eluded from a World Cup title by a whisker but it was Jhulan who with her magnificent performance with the ball brought the team to a stage from where victory didn’t seem far-fetched.
In an exclusive conversation with CricFit correspondent, Yash Kashikar the veteran spoke about how it feels to be acknowledged by the nation after the World Cup, her views on the 15-year long journey in international cricket and her future plans.
Q: After a long due, women’s cricket is receiving all the limelight it actually deserved. How has the experience been over the last few days since returning home?
Jhulan: Well, it was important for all of us to do well at the international stage since we were trying our level best to make it to the finals in the last few World Cups. Unfortunately, we were not able to do so. However, this time the way we played throughout the tournament I think it had a solid impact altogether. The entire nation watched the finals and that actually gave us a lot of satisfaction. Though we were on the losing side on that particular day but apart from that when we talk about the attention to women’s cricket in our country I think it had a huge influence. Almost every other individual was talking about the game. And of course, since returning back from England the way people have reacted has actually been the most beautiful moment in our lives. We will never ever forget these days.
Q: The team had traveled to England a few days ahead of the World Cup. Do you think this helped the unit to get acclimatized to the conditions over there in a much better way?
Jhulan: Definitely. And we must actually thank the BCCI for this. They were planning for the World Cup since last one year. The way they worked out in terms of our preparation and the amount of match practice we got was commendable. Also, the majority of the players had played a decent number of matches heading into this tournament. So, overall all these factors helped us to a great extent. And of course when you play in England weather plays an extremely crucial role and if you are able to acclimatize to the conditions quickly it is always better. So, we went a few days ahead and also played a couple of practice games which eventually worked out pretty well for us.
Q: Apart from the batting and bowling, the Indian side looked quite strong on the fielding front this time around. Do you feel the decision of having a fielding coach proved to be a major asset for the team?
Jhulan: We have always believed on the need of having a good fielding coach for our side. Ever since Mr. George took over the charge as the fielding coach we started doing a lot of drills and training so as to improve this aspect of our game. We made sure that every time we practiced there was a lot of fielding sessions involved in it. And I strongly believe that fielding is one such aspect where you need to work hard on a regular basis so as to improve. Everyone is aware of the fact of how important this particular department has become in modern day cricket. We have always had some good fielders in our team but unfortunately overall as a unit we were not able to do well on a consistent basis. However, this time around the scenario was different and we improved a lot in terms of our fielding standards.
Q: What was going on in your mind on the eve of the finals against England? How did the team prepare for this high-pressure encounter?
Jhulan: Well, England is a high-quality side and the match against them was never going to be easy. However, we had decided to approach the finals as if it was just another international fixture. Our approach was very simple- To go out on the field, express ourselves and enjoy the game. So, to be honest we didn’t discuss much before the game.
Q: You bowled superbly in the finals and bagged 3 crucial wickets conceding just 23 runs. Did you have any specific plans for the English batswoman?
Jhulan: I just reacted according to the situation. The English players were maintaining a steady run rate of around 4.5 quite easily. So, I knew that if I could provide the team with one big breakthrough then we can bring down the scoring rate. My plan was to bowl wicket to wicket, more on the fuller length and not to give them much room. Also, there wasn’t much pace in the wicket, so for me, it was more about bowling a wicket taking length rather than trying anything different and eventually it worked out.
Q: With all this limelight it’s pretty easy to get carried away. Being a senior player what will you suggest to the youngsters so that they remain grounded?
Jhulan: I feel it is very important to enjoy this special moment in our lives. But once we return back to the field our only motto should be to work even harder. As a player, it is quite essential to not let any distraction affect your game. Of course, there will be a lot of things which will divert the player’s focus but they will have to make sure that their foot is always on the field. This is just a beginning and there is a long way to go. So, working on the process matters a lot.
Q: 234 International appearances, ICC Women’s Cricketer Award; Padma Shri award; captain of the Indian Team; world’s fastest bowler; highest wicket taker and you are still going strong. When you started journey way back in 2002 did you ever feel you will come so long?
Jhulan: I never thought of all this in my life. My only dream was to play at least a single match for my country. Every time I walked out on the field I knew that doing well on that particular day mattered the most. I always had a thought in the back of my mind that if I do not perform well I would eventually get dropped from the side. So, whenever I was given an opportunity I gave my best. And the fear of getting dropped actually helped me to improve my skills and increased my hunger to do well for the nation. Even today at times I feel that if I do not perform somebody might come and take my place. Therefore, from the beginning of my career, I have had only one motive and it was to do well on the field. That is how I motivate myself. From the first day of my career, I have never ever thought of all these accolades.
Q: The entire country wants to see you in the next World Cup as well. What’s your take on it?
Jhulan: To be true I can’t really comment on this as of now. I am just trying to improve my skills with every passing day and work on my fitness. So, basically, as long as I am enjoying my game, doing well in terms of my performance on the field and also able to maintain my fitness I will keep playing. The moment I feel I am not able to do all these I will call it a day. However, at this point in time, I am enjoying the sport and have no thoughts of stopping.
Q: You and Mithali Raj have carried the Indian team on your shoulders for more than a decade and a half now. However, once both of you decide to hang your boots how difficult will it be for the Indian team to fill this void? Do you think the youngsters are ready to take on the world?
Jhulan: We have a lot of quality cricketers in our side which include the likes of Harmanpreet, Smriti Mandhana, Poonam Raut. In fact, not only these three but all the players have the potential to take Indian cricket to a different level. So, you never know maybe what we have not been able to achieve so far someday these girls might be able to. I have always believed that this team has a lot of character and I have a lot of expectations from them.
Q: In one of the recent interviews, you said that you are in no hurry of getting settled as of now. So, as a cricketer and also as an individual what are your future plans?
Jhulan: I have never really concentrated much on planning my future. At times when we plan a lot and are not able to achieve what we actually wanted to then we end up hurting and disappointing ourselves. So, I try to live in the present and work on a day to day basis rather than stressing much on what lies ahead.
Q: Drishti Dixit from Wardha has a question for you. Now after the World Cup, a lot of girls would want to pursue this game as their career. Do you have any particular suggestions for parents of budding women cricketers or for that matter any sportsperson?
Jhulan: All parents should allow their child to play any kind of sport they want to. Let them enjoy the game. It is not mandatory to take up any sport professionally. Just let them play because sports teaches an individual a lot in their life.
Q: Your message for the girls who want to take up the game.
Jhulan: If you have the passion to take up the game please go ahead with it. Make sure you work hard and don’t take any shortcuts because shortcuts will never help in any sort. Be honest with your game and that will definitely help you in accomplishing your dreams.