Exclusive Interview with Jhulan Goswami: Don’t get us wrong if we tell you that the world’s fastest bowler happens to be an Indian. We are spot on with our statement. It has become a common notion for us to associate the game of cricket with men. Talking realistically, it was women who first initiated the concept of overarm bowling.
Last week, CricFit correspondent, Ritam Basu visited the Eden Gardens to talk tete-a-tete with the fastest bowler in Women’s cricket, Jhulan Goswami. The 5 feet 11 inches tall Jhulan was spotted practicing her game and monitoring a few youngsters in the C.A.B Indoors. In the midst of her busy schedule, she spared some time to have a conversation with us. As we were about to commence the interview, she ordered 2 cups of tea for herself and our representative, which thereby, gave the conversation a flavour of a popular talk show. And, thus we began.
Q: From growing up in a remote area like Nadia to becoming the world’s fastest female cricketer. The journey hasn’t been easy. Can you reflect on this?
Jhulan: It has not been easy at all. I started playing competitive cricket at the age of 15 and used to wake up at 4:30 in the morning, in order to catch the local train and reach the practice session in time. My practice session began at 7:30 am and my coach, Swapan Sadhu never entertained late comers. There were odd days when I missed the train and couldn’t make the practice in time as my home town; Chakda was far away from Kolkata (80 km), where the practice sessions took place. I never gave up though. After coming back home, I had to resume my studies. My parents were not too keen to have me as a cricketer. They wanted me to focus more on academics. That however did not deter me from playing cricket. I sincerely believe that if you want to achieve something big in life, you need to work hard day in, day out; even if it requires you to travel for more than 5 hours daily.
Q: Among everything else, why did you feel that cricket was your destiny?
Jhulan: Actually, I got fascinated by cricket when I went to watch the 1997 Women’s World Cup Final between Australia and New Zealand at the Eden Gardens. I was asked to volunteer as a ball-girl in that match, because of which I got to see legendary figures like Belinda Clark, Cathryn Fitzpatrick and Debbie Hockley from close quarters. It was then that I realized that cricket was my destiny. Belinda has had a huge influence on my career. I have been a huge fan of her game. Besides, Indian players like Anju Jain and Anjum Chopra motivated me quite a lot during the initial stages of my career.
Q: You burst into the scene in 2000 when you picked up 3 wickets for East Zone against a sturdy Air India side which boasted of several quality female cricketers like Anju Jain and Anjum Chopra at that time. Did you think, ‘’Gosh! If I do well in this game, I may end up grabbing the selectors’ attention’’?
Jhulan: Ummm (Thinks for a while and continues), I didn’t step on to the field thinking of this. As you said, Air India had a pretty strong squad at that time. There were big names like Anju Jain and Anjum Chopra, who had established themselves in the national set up by that time. Then, there was Purnima Rau, the then coach of Air India Women, of whom I have been a huge admirer since my childhood. Yeah, I bowled pretty well in that game. After the match finished, Purnima Ma’am came up to me and asked me to join Air India. That was a big leap for me and I agreed to play for them. Fortunately, I have never looked back since then.
Q: You also visited the MRF Pace Foundation just before the 2005 Women’s World Cup began. Dennis Lillee was the director of the Academy back then. Tell us about the experience of meeting him.
Jhulan: Well, it is one of the fondest highlights of my cricketing career. You know as a child, I used to hear of his greatness and his incredible pace, which inspired me quite a bit. Later, when I was playing for India, I met him twice- at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai. I asked him for a few tips on how to find success on Australian wickets as we were scheduled to play two important competitions in 2005- The World Cup and the tour of Australia. He is a humble person. He answered all my questions with ample patience and told me a few important things about pace and which length to bowl on Australian pitches. That was indeed a big morale booster for me.
Q: You reached the final of the 2005 Women’s World Cup, in which you ended up on the losing side. Did you people ever think that you would have reached that far before the tournament kicked off?
Jhulan: No I guess. We played some exciting cricket in that competition. There were experienced players like Anju Jain, Anjum Chopra and Neetu David in the squad, ably supported by our captain, Mithali (Raj).
We lost to Australia in the final. Karen Rolton played an amazing innings in that match. We went into the tournament with the aim of reaching the semi-finals. The best part about that tournament was our spinners performed exceedingly well whereas the conditions in South Africa were seamer-friendly. My personal display in that tournament was satisfactory. We did well as a unit and managed to capture a lot of attention. Winning it would obviously have been better.
Q: In today’s day and age, when cricket has gained such worldwide fame, do you think enough is done on the part of BCCI and ICC to promote Women’s Cricket? FIFA has taken Women’s Football to a different level altogether.
Jhulan: See. BCCI has been very supportive in recent times. They have provided us with better accommodation and other facilities. Then, they also honour us by giving awards at the BCCI Annual function. Such incentives do motivate us. Talking of ICC, they have introduced the ICC Women’s Championship Table, which enables us to compete against all 7 international teams. In this manner, we are getting new opportunities to feature in more number of international fixtures. I reckon this will help us improve our game. Now, our matches are also being televised live. So, an increasing number of people have become aware of the Women’s Circuit.
Q: Jhulan, since you are a fast bowler, you are in a better position to answer this. Why is it that Indian pacers fail to replicate consistency in their bowling when they perform in sub continental conditions?
Jhulan: It’s very easy to say that they don’t fare reasonably in the sub-continent as compared to overseas conditions. First of all, the wickets in countries like South Africa and Australia assist seam bowling. Then in England, you tend to develop more swing on the ball. But here in the sub-continent, the pitches are sluggish and add to that, the soaring temperature and pacers naturally get exhausted by the time they finish their first spell.
Our bowlers have done well in the Sri Lanka Series though.
Q: Sarah Taylor joined Birmingham’s Men’s Team in 2013. Can something similar be done in Women’s cricket?
Jhulan: Yes, of course. Why not? Sarah is one of the best cricketers in the Women’s circuit at the moment and it was to her credit that she made it to the Birmingham Men’s Team. If such a system is introduced across the globe, we’ll get to learn many things from our male teammates. That may enhance our confidence. So, it’s not a bad idea at all.
Q: You and your teammates made us proud by winning the 5 match ODI series against the White Ferns recently. You were trailing 2-1 halfway through the series. What inspired you to bounce back the way you did?
Jhulan: Yes, at one stage we were trailing them in the series. We never lost hope. In the dressing room and team meetings, we discussed our strategies and assigned separate duties to individual players. Players like Thirush Kamini and Ekta Bisht did pretty well in the series. Mithali was good as always. We fired in all cylinders in the last 2 matches and played an aggressive brand of cricket, both with bat and the ball. I feel glad to have contributed to the team’s cause with a half century in the 1st ODI.
Q: What are the future prospects for the Indian Women’s Team? How would you rate the youngsters?
Jhulan: The future of our Women’s team is bright enough. There are exciting players like Harmanpreet Kaur, Thirush Kamini, R Kalpana and Ekta Bisht who are expected to bear the flag of the nation in the near future. Mithali is an inspirational leader and has some more years of cricket left in her. So, this team might go on to achieve further if we are given more number of international fixtures.
Q: Why is it that in Women’s Cricket, there’s a gulf between England-Australia and the other 6 teams?
Jhulan: The Australians and English are blessed with athletic figures. They are physically stronger than us, which in turn helps them play fearless cricket. In the sub-continent, you don’t find players of similar stature. Do you? Other sides have also done well in some instances. West Indies were the runners-up in the last edition of the ICC Women’s World Cup. Nobody had expected them to reach the final, but they did. But yes, the Aussies and English are physically superior to us.
Q: You won the ICC Women’s Cricketer Award in 2007. How was the feeling? Were you expecting it?
Jhulan: (Seems excited) No, I never expected it, to be honest. I didn’t even know that my name had been nominated for the award. So, you can imagine how surprised I was when I got to know about my nomination. Lisa Sthalekar and Claire Taylor were the other nominees I remember. I received the award from M.S Dhoni. So, that was the icing on the cake (Smiles).
Q: Apart from having taken over 145 international wickets, you have also chipped in with the bat during crisis situations. Would you call yourself an all-rounder?
Jhulan: No. I am a bowler who can bat lower down the order.
Q: The Women’s Teams do not play many Test matches. Do you think more number of Tests should be added to your international schedule?
Jhulan: Absolutely. In fact, we want to play more number of international matches- be it Tests, ODIs or T20Is. As I have mentioned before, that will give us better opportunities to test ourselves against different oppositions and in different conditions. I would love to play more number of Test matches. The real character of a player lies in flourishing in Tests.
Q: You were handed over the captaincy of the Indian Team in 2009. As you hail from Bengal, many started conceiving you as the Sourav Ganguly of the Women’s circuit. What do you have to say about this?
Jhulan: This is big compliment. Not only I but every cricketer from Bengal has been a huge follower of Dadi (Ganguly’s nickname in the cricketing fraternity of Bengal) since 2000. He has set a template for us to follow. I naturally looked to draw considerable amount of inspiration from his style of captaincy. It was a huge honour for me and I really enjoyed my time as the Indian Captain.
Q: Since, I am speaking to the world’s fastest bowler in women’s cricket, it becomes imperative for me to ask you questions regarding fitness. What is it that keeps Jhulan Goswami fit? Any 2 tips that you would like to pass on to budding female cricketers who are reading this interview?
Jhulan: Fitness I believe has played a crucial part in helping me bowl over the 120 km/h mark consistently. You need to be dedicated towards your game. It’s simple. I hit the nets regularly and try to follow a strict fitness regime. Sometimes, interacting with your teammates may also help you develop new skills.
To the girls who are reading this interview, I would like to suggest 2 tips:-
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. That will help you regain the body fluids lost while training or playing a match.
- Whenever possible, visit the gym and do some cardio vascular and stretching exercises. Above everything else, you must hit the nets regularly. That is one place where you’ll be able to test your skills before going into a match.
Q: Very recently, Mithali Raj gave us an interview in which she said that the idea of a Women’s IPL could be materialised if promoted properly. What are your thoughts on this?
Jhulan: I think she has said the right thing. If such an idea materialises, it will be great for the Women’s game here in India. We all know how popular the IPL is. Such an event would also benefit us financially, which is important for Women’s cricket. More than that, we’ll get to play alongside and against several international players which in turn will help us. This is a fairly good thought I suppose.
Q: CricFit has become famous for its signature rapid fire round. Let’s play it then.
Jhulan: Woah! I am ready.
Q: Your nickname.
Jhulan: My Indian team-mates call me ‘Gozzy’ (Grins).
Q: Your favourite cuisine.
Q: Your favourite movie.
Jhulan: 3 Idiots.
Q: Your favourite actor.
Jhulan: Aamir Khan.
Q: Your favourite actress.
Q: Your favourite sportsperson, other than a cricketer.
Jhulan: Diego Maradona.
Q: Your favourite pastime activities.
Jhulan: Reading Books and Watching TV.
Q: One celebrity you would like to take a duelfie with.
Jhulan: Amitabh Bachchan.
Q: Your favourite holiday destination.
Q: Best compliment you have ever received.
Jhulan: One of my closest relatives once told me, ‘’Jhulan, you are a good cricketer, but you are an even better person’’.
Q: For a cricketer, who has achieved so much in international cricket, what further targets has Jhulan Goswami set for herself?
Jhulan: (Replies spontaneously) The World Cup. I haven’t won it yet. That’s the only thing I am left to achieve in my career. Fingers crossed for 2017..