Jhulan Goswami is India’s greatest woman fast bowler. For over 20 years, the 5’11” tall pacer ran in, hit a length and did what the team wanted her to do. She did it without complaint; she did it with a smile on her face; and she did it for the love of the game. When Ms Goswami, now 39, played her first match for India in 2002, women’s cricket was not even a blip on the radar of most sports lovers. There was little recognition, no funds, virtually no broadcast of matches and few people thought of making a career in the game. But she kept at it — bowled more than 10,000 balls in One Day Internationals, took a record 255 wickets — and, along the way, inspired a new generation.
Ms Goswami was a mentor who didn’t think twice before taking a youngster under her wings. When there was little guidance available, she would share her experiences with young players — telling them how to prepare, how to bowl in foreign conditions (and in India too), what to do in the wait between matches and how to deal with injuries. She shared in the singular hope that it would help them get better.
Her longevity meant that youngsters didn’t just fall into the trap of thinking that Indians couldn’t bowl fast. They saw her and they believed. But her true legacy went beyond that; she survived, and along with her, women’s cricket in India survived. Her presence helped India win matches, stay relevant and make headlines, and her record spoke of a world-class performer who could not be ignored. Now, as she walks away from international cricket, the women’s game is in a far better place. Of course, she didn’t do it alone but she was an integral and irreplaceable part of the process.
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