The curtain came down on the career of one of cricket’s greatest at Lord’s on Saturday.
Jhulan Goswami – arguably the best fast bowler women’s cricket has seen – was playing in her 204th and final one-day international.
And Goswami didn’t disappoint, taking a miserly 2-30 from 10 typically canny overs on an emotional afternoon which saw presentations before play, a guard of honour when she batted, before a heartwarming huddle with team-mates after bowling her final delivery.
“It is the end of an era,” said former India captain Mithali Raj, reflecting on Goswami’s stellar 20-year career.
Goswami, 39, went into her final match before retirement as the leading wicket-taker in women’s ODIs with 253 wickets in 204 matches.
She made her debut at the age of 19 against England in Chennai in January 2002. Goswami has also played 12 Test matches and 86 Twenty20 internationals, playing her last in that format in 2018.
Her final farewell came at Lord’s, where India lost by just nine runs to England in the World Cup final in 2017, the second final in which she played and lost.
But she leaves international cricket with a series win as India wrapped up a 3-0 success, their first series win in England since 1999.
Most wickets in women’s ODIs
“I’d like to thank the BCCI, my team-mates, my coaches, my captains – everyone. Thank you for this opportunity, this is a special moment,” Goswami said before the match.
“When I started my career in 2002, I played my first series against England and I’m ending against England.
“Each and every moment has emotions for me. The 2017 World Cup, the way our team came back and fought – nobody initially thought that we were going to be in a final. But the way we played in that tournament was something different.”
Goswami and Mithali, the all-time leading run scorer in women’s ODIs, held India’s team together for 20 years but both have now retired in the past six months.
The pair have been a consistent presence in India’s ranks as they have recently started to compete more closely with the likes of England and Australia, reaching that final in 2017 and also finals of the T20 World Cup in 2020 and the Commonwealth Games earlier this year.
There are also plans for a women’s Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2023.
“Women’s cricket in India slowly and gradually picking up. We can motivate young girls to play sport and have a career option in cricket,” said Goswami.
Goswami represents a different era of women’s cricket, with the game’s professionalism developing rapidly since her debut.
But she has kept up with the pace, supporting the young India talent coming through the system while maintaining her own high standards of hard work and consistency.
Praise for Goswami’s career has been plentiful from her team-mates and opponents.
“It’s not just what she does on the pitch, she’s an absolutely lovely human,” said England batter Tammy Beaumont.
“She’s been great for the game and she’ll be a very big loss but I think it’s great that she gets to have a good send off at Lord’s.”
“I’ve learnt so much from her on the cricket field but what I shall always treasure is knowing the person she was off the field,” said India all-rounder Shikha Pandey.
“I hardly found it easy bowling alongside her because everyone wanted me to be her, such are the standards she set for the bowlers coming into the side. Her work ethics were second to none and they inspired me to get better every day.”
Mithali added: “The impact she has had in women’s cricket at the global level is immense.
“She has been a great ambassador for the sport and youngsters took to fast bowling after seeing her bowl for India.”
‘I wanted to be like Australian great Fitzpatrick’ – Goswami in her own words
Speaking on One Billion to One: The Great Indian Cricket Dream, which airs on the BBC News channel and BBC iPlayer on 24 September and 1 & 8 October
On being inspired to take up cricket by the 1997 World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand at Eden Gardens: “I got two complimentary tickets from my school because I was a very sporty girl.
“I entered the ground and there was one organiser person there, who asked if I wanted to be a ball girl. I said ‘no I’m not a ball girl’ but my dad said ‘you go’. When I got there I could see lots of girls sitting on the boundary edge.
“I stayed, watching the game. When I saw Australia captain Belinda Clark lifting the trophy, taking a victory lap, that is when I realised ‘that’s it, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to play this sport professionally and one day I’m going to represent my country’. That is how my dream started.”
On representing India: “The ultimate goal for me was to represent my country. I wanted to play for my country because in India, more than one billion people live here. When I received my first India cap and my India jersey, for five minutes I was absolutely spellbound. I could not talk.”
On Australia’s Cathryn Fitzpatrick, who is regarded as the fastest women’s bowler of all time: “Fitzy was one of the quickest in those days and she was very accurate. People used to be scared to face her. She was very aggressive, ruthless, and that is how I wanted to mould myself.
“Generally, Aussie cricketers are very ruthless people on the field. So I had to change my behaviour on the field to be rough and tough, like her.
“I used to ask her how she prepared. I used to try to implement all those things whenever I came back home and I used to try to improve my skills that way.
“So yeah, she was a big influence, bowling fast and she she used to win the matches for Australia single-handedly. I used to enjoy doing those things. And I always believe if you want to win the matches for your country then you have to think out of the box, which is what Fitzy did.”