When Jhulan Goswami took the wicket of South Africa’s Raisibe Ntozakhe in the Women’s Quadrangular one-day match at Potchefstroom on Tuesday, she made history by breaking the world record for the most wickets in 50-over international cricket in the women’s game. Fast bowler Goswami, 34, surpassed the record of 180 wickets, previously held by the Australian fast bowler Cathryn Fitzpatrick for nearly ten years.
Fitzpatrick, in her time, was regarded as the fastest female bowler in the world. Therefore it is fitting that her record was broken by a player of similar pedigree. When Fitzpatrick retired in 2007, Goswami took on the title of being one of the quickest bowlers in the women’s game and has been India’s spearhead for years now. Standing tall at 5’11”, Goswami uses her height to generate good bounce. She is also known for her accuracy and ability to maintain that consistently over long spells.
Hailing from a middle-class family in Chakdaha, a small town in West Bengal’s Nadia district, Goswami started off by playing tennis-ball cricket with the boys. As her love for the game grew, she realised that she needed to take her cricket education a step further. Since her hometown lacked basic cricket facilities at the time, she had no option but to travel to Kolkata.
In her teens, for three days in a week, she would catch a 5am train from Chakdaha to Sealdah in Kolkata, and then catch a bus to cricket practice by 7.30am. After 9.30, it was another two-hour trek back to her hometown to report to school. This arduous four-hour journey on a jam-packed inter-city train, Goswami recalled, toughened her up mentally.
She soon made it to the Bengal women’s team and at 19, she made her India debut, in a one-day international against England in Chennai. She has taken five or more wickets in an innings twice in her career. Her 5 for 16 in Silchar in 2005 sunk England to 50 all out. In 2011, she took 6 for 31 against New Zealand in Southgate (England), but India failed to win that game.
Since the Indian women’s team rarely gets to play Test matches, Goswami has managed to play only ten Tests over a 15-year period. Her memorable Test performance came against England at Taunton in 2006, where she took five wickets in each innings to finish with match figures of 10 for 78 to help India to a famous series victory.
That performance no doubt influenced the jury the following year when she won the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Women’s Cricketer of the Year award, the first Indian player to win it. In 2010, she received the Arjuna Award and two years later, she became only the second woman cricketer to be conferred the Padma Shri, after Diana Edulji.
Goswami took over the India captaincy from Mithali Raj in 2008, which she held till 2011. She has taken 50 wickets in Twenty20 internationals, with best bowling figures of 5 for 11against Australia at Vizag. Her combined tally (Tests, one-dayers and T20s) of 271 wickets in international cricket is the highest for any bowler in the world.
In the list of highest wicket-takers in one-day cricket, the only Indian in the top ten is the retired Neetu David (141 wickets) at No. 4. The three names below Goswami have all retired. It appears as if Goswami will hold on to this record for some time at least.