Goswami still resented the row that overshadowed India’s farewell cricket

Lord’s, September 24, 2022: a day that was all about Jhulan Goswami – until it wasn’t anymore. A final bow to her 20-year international career; a guard of honor from the England players as she went out to bat one last time; He needed two wickets to complete a career total of 355. Then, with England on the verge of an unlikely victory, Deepti Sharma left Charlie Dean behind and all hell broke loose.

A year and a half later, Goswami is enjoying retirement: spending time with her family, working for her state association in West Bengal, helping to develop the next generation of female cricketers, winning her first Women’s Premier League title, and being a bowling coach Mentor for Mumbai Indians. But this giant of Indian women’s cricket is still upset about the end of her retirement game.

However, not about Sharma’s actions. “Deepti made the right decision,” says Goswami. “It was absolutely within the law.” Her anger, she says, is directed at the hypocrisy of the predominantly English crowd, who booed Goswami’s departure, and the England players, who could not hide their disgust at the incident. Heather Knight even went so far as to accuse Sharma of lying about it.

“In the 2019 (Men’s) World Cup final, the ball hit Ben Stokes’ bat and went to the boundary,” Goswami said. “You could say they shouldn’t have made those runs. Deepti acted within the law, but the opposing team was not happy. But if it was a World Cup final and the ball hits the bat and goes to the boundary, then you take those four.

“You want to preserve the spirit of the game? Then do that, whether you’re playing a World Cup final or just a bilateral series. They (England) should say: “It’s the spirit of the game, I’m not going to take these four.” Or you want to play within the law – then that (Stokes limit) is within the law. But then you also have to respect Deepti’s outlet. I don’t think the discussion should continue.”

Whether you agree with Goswami or not, everyone agrees that it will forever be a disappointment at the way the focus shifted to celebrating her incredible career that day. The fast bowler represented India 284 times between 2002 and 2022, helping drive a dramatic shift in Indian women’s cricket from a purely amateur affair to one in which the top players can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Growing up in a conservative Bengali family, Goswami had to struggle to pursue her love of cricket at a time when there was no money. She would wake up at 4:30 a.m. to make five-hour round trips just to get to training at the age of 15. But after making her debut for India against England in January 2002, she never looked back. Her speed (up to 120 km/h at peak) combined with the jumping power that she was able to extract from her 1.70 m tall stature proved to be a deadly combination. In 2008, she was ranked the No. 1 bowler in the world and ended her career as the all-time leading wicket-taker.

Jhulan Goswami celebrates dismissing Fran Wilson in the 2017 Women’s World Cup final. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Nevertheless, her successes remained under the radar in the first two thirds of her career. The turning point, she says, was the 2017 World Cup, where India eliminated Australia in the semifinals and faced hosts England in the final. Before that match, played in front of a sold-out stadium at Lord’s, Goswami was aware of the gravity of the event: “I couldn’t sleep properly. I had a lot of goosebumps and a lot of emotional turmoil. I paced around my room, trying to calm myself down. “Relax, enjoy and imagine yourself bowling in front of a full house at Lord’s.”

“We lost the toss and England decided to bat. I said, “I’ll get there first,” so I could calm myself down. I was super excited, everything went according to our plan. We controlled the game for 90 overs.” But India failed miserably, being bowled out for 219 while chasing 229 and their dream of their first World Cup title shattered. Goswami describes it as heartbreaking.

However, knowing what followed, she can now look back on the day with calm. “When we came back to India, we found that people had been following it ball by ball. The respect we got, from the Prime Minister of our country to ordinary people, everyone supported us. After that, women’s cricket grew – our girls got central contracts and became household names. And young girls in our country began to dream.”

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For Goswami, retirement came with great reserve. When told that continuing to play as a fast bowler until the age of 39 is already beyond her call of duty, she interrupts: “James Anderson is still playing at 41.” However, she admits that her body is in the middle after an injury The 2022 World Cup was ready to give up: “I wanted to try harder, but my body didn’t support me enough.”

If anyone doubted that they had still made it, they should have been in the nets before the first WPL final last year. Goswami decided she needed one last chance to send an over to Mumbai Indians head coach and long-time rival Charlotte Edwards. “I took them out internationally 12 times. I said to her, ‘Can I have the chance to take you out for the 13th time?’ She said, ‘No, you can’t.’ Finally she accepted – and now I’ve taken her out 13 times.”

It is fitting that Goswami, a trailblazer in women’s cricket, gets to play a pivotal role in the WPL – the latest landmark development in the sport. No one was surprised when a team with her and Edwards won their first title as a team. Your secret? “As a support team, we have tried to create a healthy atmosphere in the locker room and ensure that we are happy for each other’s success. You can’t control the cricket but we can at least control the dressing room.”

Mumbai Indians will open the second edition of the WPL on Friday, a tournament opener that is a repeat of last year’s final against Delhi Capitals. Goswami oversees a team full of talent – Nat Sciver-Brunt, Harmanpreet Kaur and Hayley Matthews all return to the squad, while they also secured Shabnim Ismail at this season’s auction – and is confident of success again this time. “We prepare well as a group,” she says. “We are ready.”

This is an extract from the Guardian’s weekly cricket email, The Spin. To sign up, simply visit this page and follow the instructions.

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