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INDIA WOMEN TOUR FROM AUSTRALI, 2021
Jhulan Goswami removed the openers after India’s statement. ©Getty
Was Jhulan Goswami’s four-ball symphony with Alyssa Healy a sign that we need more female test cricket? Was that epic mini-battle between two of the world’s best just another reminder of why we should all pay a lot more attention to women’s cricket in general? Did 38-year-old Goswami show us the twilight of her career in the twilight on the Gold Coast, with a pink ball in her hand, what we missed in all these years, the Indian women also went without playing a lot of tests? Or in a nutshell, was this the highlight role that women’s test cricket has always tried to add that elusive fifth day to the game?
At first glance, you might argue that Goswami’s four-card trick to knock out Healy at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night (October 2) meant all that and then some. But then you wonder if you really had to. Couldn’t we celebrate an event of this high value in its isolation, instead of necessarily trying to attach greater image relevance to it? Because Goswami v Healy deserved to be its own show. After all, what we experienced was a groundbreaking moment, not only in the context of this series or women’s cricket, but also that of the sport itself. It was just so special.
Goswami’s brilliance didn’t just lighten an otherwise classic test match day of attrition. It also fully justified India’s decision to continue hitting to match their statement perfectly with the lights going into effect over the stadium. And why the visitors’ approach, which was criticized from some quarters, ultimately gave them the best chance of even considering pressing a result.
In any case, it also set the tone for the main event Goswami v Healy. The experienced navigator from India had already shown in her first period that she was willing to throw the new ball fuller and into punching areas. She’d also made contact with the stumps when she had Beth Mooney bowl a pitch that didn’t do much in the air or down the wicket, but still cut through the left-hander’s defense. She had also constantly threatened Meg Lanning’s outer edge, zooming in on the Australian captain’s off-stump. And by the time she returned for her second outburst — welcomed by the ground announcer with “Yoolan Goswami Returns to Attack” — the air around Metricon was a lot cooler and the Indian contingent in the crowd a lot more curious. After doing their best to grind songs for various players on the side for the past half hour, the twenty or so diehards had decided to sit on the edge of their seats and just watch. Healy and Lanning had given them little to cheer them up for nearly half an hour. But when Goswami returned, they felt that the pressure cooker whistle was about to go off.
As far as there was more oooinstead of a aaaaaawhen the first ball of the ball hit over the toe of Healy’s bat, leaving Taniya Bhatia behind the stumps, more anticipation than excitement at what was to come.
The second delivery may have been better in some ways than the one Healy would eventually have. It threw back at that usual half-inch Goswami length too short and sharp enough to beat the right-hander’s inner edge, but not enough to hit the off-stump like in the second ODI on Mackay. Goswami had her hands on her head, Healy with her heart in her mouth and the Indian fans with their buttocks off their seats. No one sat down again. You only wish there were thousands more around the impressive home of the Gold Coast Suns.
Healy and Goswami hadn’t run into each other in international cricket as often as you might think. The boast was shared to some extent – 5 layoffs in 17 whiteball games. But here it was Goswami who was in charge of the proceedings and the story. So far, it has generally seemed like a benign cast. The rain and terrible weather had also robbed large swaths of night cricket from the day-night test.
The next delivery sparked the most lively reactions and sounds from the ground. First came the thump of Healy’s biceps, closely followed by that silence that follows every time a bouncer hits a batter, and then the roar of delight from the Indian fans.
While Healy took a short walk to shake off the pain and make a customary joke to the referee, Goswami had walked back to the top of her goal. India’s most senior bowler had taken Tuesday off from the training session, the first time ever with a pink ball from the team. Instead, she had sat on a high stool and held court near the Indian dugout, sharing jokes with former teammate turned selector Neetu David. The next day, she got to throw a few pitches with it, and nearly 90 percent of them had trouble hitting the batters, from Shafali Verma to future test centurion Smriti Mandhana. Much to the dismay of her teammates, of course. Goswami sheepishly applied the impact her first-ever pink ball spell had on her teammates on the pitch, saying: “Mein bol rahi hoon, yeh pitch aise hi hai (I already said it’s all about this pitch)“.
And here she was on a surface that had offered little or nothing to any other navigator who had tried, leaving one of the best hitters in the world of cricket to hop about unhappily. The wicketball was a masterclass in delivering a knockout blow from a perfectly placed upper cut at a length, but on this occasion he shaped himself away. The softened Healy had no choice but to poke it without conviction before almost immediately putting her head down and walking away. As everyone around her, and in the stands, exploded with unbridled joy, Goswami’s response was similar to that of the nets on the eve of the Test, as if all she had to say again was: “mein bol rahi hoon, yeh pitch aise hi hai”.
Despite India’s best efforts so far to make it a match, the lone test of the multi-format series could well end in a dull draw, the final session on Sunday (October 3). But it’s unlikely those at Metricon Stadium will ever forget their “I was there moment,” even if it only lasted 10 minutes, and even if the ground announcer never got Jhulan’s pronunciation right, and even if it didn’t. is actually leading to all those wonderful women’s cricket results that most of us understandably believe should. For we can be sure that whether the events of the four days of this Test are remembered or not, Jhulan Goswami’s four balls for Alyssa Healy will surely live on forever.
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