By Niharika Raina
New Delhi, January 20 (IANS): Veteran India pacer Jhulan Goswami, in a lengthy international career filled with laurels, has another dream to achieve: the Cricket World Cup trophy. Jhulan came close twice in 2005 and 2017, but finished second.
But with the Women’s Cricket World Cup kicking off on March 4 in New Zealand, Jhulan is eager to get her hands on the biggest prize in women’s cricket, which she has equated with the Olympics.
“As a cricketer, we have not played in the Olympics. For us, the Cricket World Cup is an Olympic event. You prepare for four years to reach a certain level and then you just go out, enjoy yourself and express yourself. Preparation is always there, but things have changed because of COVID and all,” Jhulan said during an interaction during WINS (Women in News & Sport) Workshop, a program funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Her focus on the World Cup dream is so deep that 39-year-old Jhulan isn’t thinking about her future as a player after the mega event ends.
“I haven’t thought at this point whether it would be my last World Cup or not. Right now I’m thinking about contributing and I want to enjoy and don’t think beyond that. Whatever the time, we’ll know At this point I want to start enjoying my cricket and make sure I can contribute more for my side.”
Coincidentally, Jhulan’s first sight of women’s cricket was a World Cup at home, which gave birth to her dream and pursuit of taking the trophy. “When I was a cricketer novice, I watched the 1997 World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand at Eden Gardens as a ball girl. That was the first time in my life I saw women’s cricket when Belinda Clark won the trophy and the took the win I think I’m chasing that dream from my childhood.
“Twice I was part of the team in a World Cup final, but I wasn’t able to pick up and do what Belinda did in the 1997 World Cup final at Eden Gardens. This time I’m just going there and try to make sure that I will succeed individually on my part to contribute more and I hope to fill and tick all those boxes. I am really looking forward to this tournament.”
When India was heading for the 2017 World Cup in England, there were few ardent supporters of the game. But the team’s second place in the tournament attracted a lot of attention, brand recommendations and fans of women’s cricket in the country.
Jhulan believes nothing has changed in terms of preparation as another World Cup appearance looms, but the constraints of the pandemic mean cricketers are now dealing with quarantine and bio-bubbles.
“There has been no difference in the preparation of the team. It remains the same. The change is the COVID, quarantine period, all those elements have been introduced. If you play in the empty stands you cannot go out to meet your friends and if you don’t get a good day on the pitch you are unable to go out and try to take out the cricket then come back and start freshening up unable to do that because you are in you’re in the same hallway, so it’s very different.
“From the 2017 World Cup final, the growth of women’s cricket in our country has really improved. People have started following, matches are regularly televised and social media has played a big role. That’s a good start for women’s cricket and on at this point, preparation for this World Cup took four years after we finished that event in 2017.”
In the run-up to the 2022 World Cup, India will play five ODIs against New Zealand in Napier, Nelson and Queenstown, excluding a T20I for the warm-up matches and finally the mega event kicks off.
Jhulan, last seen in action against Australia, sees the five ODIs as an opportunity to get used to the conditions in New Zealand.
“I think it will be good preparation for us as we last played international cricket against Australia. In between we didn’t play international cricket and there was domestic cricket. So before the World Cup we get at least five high quality ODI. games and New Zealand becomes one of the top countries in the competition.
“You can get some good matches and I hope a lot of people get a chance to take part in those matches to make the adjustments and acclimate to the wickets there and go fresh for the World Cup.”
Jhulan went on to explain the challenges a cricketer faces in New Zealand, pointing out the windy conditions, especially in the capital Wellington. “I think every wicket is going to be a challenge. But most of all I think Wellington will be the biggest challenge for all bowlers because it will be very windy and then bowling against the wind will be a challenge for the bowlers. It won’t be an easy tour to New Zealand, as wind plays a major role.
“Sometimes while taking the run-up you are unable to bowl quickly and if you tap the bat the bat will start to vibrate. It will not be easy to play in New Zealand as it was a challenging place to play for. cricketers and every wicket will be a challenge for us. The greatest help for us will be to adapt to the circumstances.”
Jhulan leads a bowling unit with young players in Meghna Singh, Pooja Vastrakar and Renuka Singh Thakur. Jhulan is confident that they will shine when it matters most despite the absence of Shikha Pandey in the squad.
“As a bowling unit we are doing well and we have done well in the last series. Both in the one day and the Test we did very well in Australia. At the moment, whoever is there, they have qualities and have done well in both domestic and international cricket. So hopefully this unit will get strong and perform well.”
“As for Shikha’s roster, I’m not part of those roster stuff and I can’t comment on that. Honestly, I’m really looking forward to this unit and as a fast bowling unit we’ll do well. just hope for best.”