Jhulan Goswami – Journey from a “Ball Girl” to “Legend” of World Cricket

It is often said that cricket is a batter’s game. Not often would you see a bowler making the headlines or hitting the cover pages of magazines or front pages of newspapers. Despite this fact, there are still a number of aspiring cricketers, who want to take up the thankless job of a bowler and put their blood and sweat together to play the sport at the highest level.


Jhulan Goswami - Journey from a "Ball Girl" to "Legend" of World Cricket. PC: Getty Images
Jhulan Goswami – Journey from a “Ball Girl” to “Legend” of World Cricket. PC: Getty Images


One such bowler, who has toiled hard and literally gone those extra miles to realize her dream of playing cricket for India is none other than Jhulan Goswami. Over her illustrious career stretching beyond 20 years, Goswami has not only made India proud but also inspired a generation of cricketers to take up fast bowling.


Jhulan Goswami - Female Cricket
Jhulan Goswami. PC: Getty Images


Shouldering the heavy responsibility of India’s bowling for more than two decades is this legendary pace sensation, Jhulan Goswami. She is the only bowler in the history of women’s cricket to have a career as long as 20 years. Making her international debut at the age of 19 to still going strong at the highest level at the age of 39, Goswami has just aged better and better like wine. In present-day cricket, she is still considered to be one of the fastest bowlers in the women’s game.


Jhulan Goswami surpasses Lyn Fullston's Record to Take Most World Cup Wickets. PC: ICC / Getty Images
Jhulan Goswami surpasses Lyn Fullston’s Record to Take Most World Cup Wickets. PC: ICC / Getty Images


Not many may know that cricket was not the first sport that she took up. Born and brought up in the eastern state of India, West Bengal, Goswami played a lot of football during her formative years and was inspired by Diego Maradona. It was only after the 1992 Men’s World Cup which she saw on television that she started to take interest in cricket. She started watching the game keenly and only after five years, when she turned 15, she started playing formal cricket. Due to the lack of facilities in her hometown, Chakdaha, she traveled to Kolkata, a 62-km journey by train just to play cricket. Her interest in cricket ballooned after she witnessed a 1997 Women’s World Cup match from the sidelines. She watched one of Australia’s matches that were played in Kolkata, sitting on the boundary rope and acting as a ball girl. The 15-year old Goswami was simply awestruck when she saw the Australian captain Belinda Clark thrashing the opposition bowlers to all parts of the Eden Gardens. That day completely changed her life as she was determined more than ever to make cricket her career and represent India in the sport.

However, only having determination is sometimes not enough. Goswami’s cricketing journey could have been cut short if her first coach Swapan Sadhu would not have convinced her parents to allow their daughter to play cricket. Hailing from a typical middle-class family, Jhulan’s father, Nishit Goswami gave his daughter a daily allowance to travel to Kolkata by train for cricket practice. When he was not able to provide his daughter with the funds, Jhulan would miss the practice. Coach Sadhu went to the depth of the situation, understood the reason for Goswami’s absence, and made his way to her residence to explain the talent and potential of Jhulan to her parents.

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Jhulan Goswami with Coach Swapan Sadhu
Jhulan Goswami with Coach Swapan Sadhu


Soon, Jhulan started making her mark at the domestic level playing for Bengal and after tasting success at that level, she was ready to make her international debut. She played her first international fixture in 2002 and since then her journey has been nothing less than spectacular.

In 2005, when India reached the finals of the Women’s World Cup, she was a part of the squad. A year later, she was again at the brink of history, when she was a part of the Indian team that won its first-ever Test series against England in England. The year 2007 was very special for her as she became the first Indian woman to bag the ICC Player of the Year award. Few months later, in 2008, she was presented with the opportunity to lead the Indian side. She captained the team in 25 ODIs till 2011 and in 18 T20Is till 2015, winning 12 and eight matches respectively. In 2018, she became the first woman cricketer to reach 200 wickets in ODI cricket. To acknowledge her incredible service to the Indian sport, she was bestowed with the Arjuna award in 2010 and Padma Shri in 2012. She became the second Indian woman cricketer to receive Padma Shri.


Jhulan Goswami - Arjuna Awardee (Year 2010)
Jhulan Goswami – Arjuna Awardee (Year 2010)


To commemorate her contributions to Indian women’s cricket, in April 2018, an Indian postage stamp was issued in her honor. Soon, there will be a Hindi movie “Chakda Xpress” released as a tribute to this legendary fast bowler, who has the same nickname.

Now, coming to more recent times, Goswami will be playing her fifth ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup this year, which is likely to be her swan song. There is seldom any doubt that Goswami and her humongous number of fans will want to see the Indian team lifting the trophy. Having come so close in 2005 and 2017, of which Goswami was part of, clinching the world title this year, will be the perfect happy ending for this legendary cricketer, who had an illustrious career stretching beyond 20 years.

I am a former cricketer having represented Mumbai University at All India University level. I was a part of MCA probables for the U-19 and U-23 age group. I have been an avid cricket writer for the last five years. Currently I am pursuing my Ph.D from IIT Bombay.

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