Speeding up to the top
Hurling the cricket ball at 115 to 120 kmph, Jhulan Goswami is the fastest woman bowler in the world. Her speed certainly does not compare with the Lees and Akhtars. But her endeavour to make it to the top of Indian and world cricket has meant that at 25 she is captain of the Indian women’s team.
For Goswami, the struggle has been not so much about breaking into the Indian team; her problems began when she decided to play cricket. In the small village called Chakdah, about 60 km from Kolkata, all that was expected from Goswami was that she cook, do household chores and study.
But in 1997, when, on a school outing, the 14-year-old schoolgirl watched a cricket match, she knew this was what she
wanted to do all her life.
She tried learning to bowl by playing tennis ball cricket with the neighbourhood boys. “But I used to bowl too slow for their comfort and soon they stopped playing with me,” Goswami recalls. “So I decided to be a fast bowler.”
Today, she stands 5’11” tall and looks every bit a fast bowler. And on the eve of the team’s departure for Australia for the ICC World Cup, she declares, “I really want to win this World Cup.”
She is uncomfortable speaking English and keeps shifting to Hindi. But what she has to say is said with steely confidence. Much like another fast bowler, Kapil Dev.
Despite winning the ICC Cricketer of the Year Award in 2007, Goswami believes, “Simply playing cricket is my biggest achievement. I have done nothing else.”
But that hasn’t come easy. In Chakdah, she had to travel 80 km a day to practise, which meant waking up at 4.30 am. Her disapproving mother broke her bats and threw her cricket balls away, prompting Goswami to hide her cricket gear outside the house. But that’s in the past now. “My parents are proud of me now and I think most parents back in Chakdah would want their daughters to emulate me,” she says. “And that makes me proud of being a woman and a cricketer.”