India could not have asked for a better person than Jhulan Goswami to front the media a day ahead of its must-win clash against New Zealand in the 2017 Women’s World Cup in Derby on Saturday.
Guarded yet frank and mature with her responses, she used life as an example to summarise India’s campaign in the tournament so far. After winning its first four matches, India was beaten by South Africa and Australia. Now it needs to win its last league game to make it to the semi-finals – its first goal when the team left Indian shores on June 11.
“It’s a long tour. There have been ups and downs, but we must focus on the positive things we have done,” Goswami said. “The girls are enjoying this moment. Life has ups and downs. How we come back from here will show the character of individuals. In such a long tournament this can happen, but to come back from here, we have to focus on the process.”
One of the observations has been that India practice a lot, leaving little time for players to recover between games. For example, it travelled by bus from Taunton after its second match against Windies to Derby and directly arrived at the ground for a session. Goswami, though, felt that each practice session had added something to the team’s intelligence.
“It’s important to spend quality time on the ground. Switching off happens off the field. We have had a lot of optional sessions, but everybody wants to do something on the field,” she explained. “The best thing is you are here for a World Cup, which comes once in four years. That’s what the girls have been preparing for. Secondly, switching off happens on our days off. We rest, we do other things, but playing good cricket is also important.
“We are playing at different venues. You have to understand how each wicket is, how that ground is, the atmosphere,” she added. “We have quite a few debutants who are playing in England for the first time. That’s why we are having a lot of training sessions, and that’s helping us.”
India has been on the road since the start of the Women’s Championship in 2014. The game against New Zealand will be its 37th One-Day International since August 2014. Additionally, it has played 21 Twenty20 Internationals and two Test matches. For perspective, India played only seven T20Is in a space of seven months going into the last World Cup at home in 2013. While the numbers have improved significantly, the current set of players had never taken such physical load in such a small window at this level in the past. Goswami, however, did not use fatigue as an excuse and saw the development positively.
“We wanted more matches. Until we play more, no matter how much you do nets, you won’t know where you develop,” she said. “Secondly, we have never had the kind of preparation we had for this World Cup. All the girls have played 15-20 ODIs. That’s helping them in this tournament. In previous World Cups, we had a lot of debutants. Now the team is more balanced, and for the last two years, the girls have been doing well. That experience will help on this big stage. At this moment, I can say we have to enjoy this moment and believe and focus on the process.”
Goswami admitted pressure was inevitable in a cricketer’s life, but said the key was to enjoy those moments. “There is pressure. International sport has pressure. How you handle it, that is important,” she elaborated. “That’s what we have been preparing for the last two years. It’s not going to be an easy match. They are also going to come at us hard; they also want to be in the semi-final. The World Cup and playing against a quality side, the pressure is there. What you are doing is difficult, but you enjoy it. Whatever your role is, you have to do that.”
Goswami herself has not yet come to the party this World Cup. She has picked up just four wickets in six matches, and her economy of 4.71 is the worst among all seamers so far. In fact, her batting has been better, putting her five runs away from becoming the eighth player to the ODI double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets.
“These things happen. You cannot say that every day, things will go according to plan. After playing for 15 years, the opposition will plan for you. You also plan for them. Sometimes it clicks, sometimes it doesn’t,” she added. “The important thing is rhythm, bowling, support from the other end, from fielders. Everything matters.
“For me as a senior player, it’s important to take responsibility and take wickets up front. When things don’t go to plan, you have to get back to basics and start from scratch, then go ahead,” she continued. “From a team perspective, it’s important to perform my role consistently. Sometimes life goes well, sometimes we learn something difficult, the learning never stops.”
Goswami said the game against New Zealand was important ‘for all of us, for Indian women’s cricket’. She wants to enjoy the moment, and then think about what lies next. A win will postpone the question about her future by at least a few more days.