And there she was again. Jhulan Goswami’s pre-over routine must be one of the most familiar sights in Indian cricket: a kiss to the India logo as she hands the cap to the umpire; a moment of stillness at the top of her run-up, right fist closed near her stomach, eyes shut, muttering affirmations to herself; a quick glance at the sun as she opens her eyes, squares her shoulders, checks her field, and leans into her run-up.
On Thursday at the Brabourne Stadium, for a moment it seemed like the extra pace she brought to the game would backfire. Beth Mooney just had to extend her arms through the gap at mid-off, and off the ball went, just marginally full. Alyssa Healy put more effort into her first ball, and it flew over the same area, immediately prompting flashbacks of her belligerent century from just a few days ago.
Then, from a pitch that had as much life in it as a graveyard, Goswami extracted a hint of inward movement. That’s all you need when you have pace; that’s all Goswami needed as she knocked back Healy’s middle stump.
“It was amazing to see some bowled (dismissals) of Australian players," said top scorer Smriti Mandhana after the game. It only took 798 balls, 18 wickets, and one entire series for Indian fans to enjoy the sight of one of their fast bowler knocking back an Australian player’s stumps. You could hear the sincere joy in Mandhana’s voice, not just for balls that did that, but for the bowler who bowled them.
Goswami came back into the Indian team after having missed two series in two different continents due to a bruised heel. Australia, when they bowled, had relied on the slower pace of Megan Schutt and Delissa Kimmince with the new ball. Their quickest bowler, Ellyse Perry, didn’t make an appearance until after the first six overs, when the field could be spread. Slow is the new pink.
Someone tell Goswami. In her second over, she got another one to move – so slightly you could not notice it without a replay — and shook up Ashleigh Gardener’s stumps. Both wickets were preceded by a couple of boundaries. Some fast bowlers bowl bouncers in response. Goswami just got the ball to move more than the last one.
In the past year, Goswami’s season has sunk and spiked like a cardiogram of an Afghanistan fan tracking the Zimbabwe monsoon. She was the best bowler on both sides of the 2017 World Cup Final until that manic burst from Anya Shrubsole tipped the balance of India’s fairy tale ending. The Indian domestic season saw her spending more time in rehab than on the ground; she missed most of it with a freak injury to her hand.
On her return came a highlight in South Africa, where she became the first women to take 200 ODI wickets, breaking a metaphorical glass ceiling with her bowling shoes, but bruising her heel in reality. That kept her out for more than five weeks, before she made a stirring comeback on Thursday, with her second best figures against Australia. She also nudged past Perry as the highest wicket-taker in India-Australia T20Is.
“It was a tough time for me” Goswami has said ahead of her comeback. She had spent the better part of the last month at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru “(Being) out with injury, I had very short time to prepare for this tournament, as Bangalore weather was very fickle last few days. But I’m very confident. Obviously, whenever I’m coming on the field I try to give my best. I’ll stick to that.”
Goswami picked up one more wicket, finishing with 3 for 30 in her four overs. The passion in her celebrations seemed stronger than usual, and perhaps some pent up energy over the last month or so was released; in the game she broke the 200 barrier, she hardly got to celebrate as she picked up the injury.
“These things will happen as sportsperson, you’re going to get injured, that’s a part of life” she said. “I’ll not say that I missed the celebration, the important part was that we won all the matches. But I was very disappointed that I could not be part of the T20 tournament. I was upset, but at the same time, you cannot control certain things.”
Goswami’s starburst wasn’t enough to lift the Indian side past Australia. India’s total of 152 hardly proved daunting, as Australia knocked it off in just over 18 overs with six wickets in hand. It was their highest-ever successful run chase, but it stretched them as much as a brisk jog in Sydney’s Hyde Park would.
Goswami had little support from the other end. India, surprisingly, played three seamers, but the other two went for combined figures of 4.1-0-52-0.
“We’re doing the same mistakes as a bowing unit as well," said Mandhana. “If there is pressure from both ends, then only the batsman will try and do something different. We as a bowling unit have to step up, create the pressure on the Australian batsmen which we haven’t done since the One Day series.”
But if the bowlers looked lost in the series before, it might help that they have their shepherd and savant back. With that performance, she is almost daring people to talk about her valedictory. Goswami looked sharp, skilled, and motivated as ever, for the ultimate goal of winning India a World Cup.
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