Jhulan Goswami started her cricketing journey in the local trains of West Bengal. She had to change trains to travel 80 km from her hometown in Chakdaha to the cricket academy of Swapan Sadhu at Vivekananda Park. The struggle in the early days oiled her fast-bowling engine so well that it never lacked steam for 20 years.
On Saturday, Goswami – the highest wicket-taker in women's ODIs with 255 wickets – hung up her boots post the third ODI against England at Lord's, but the athletic body did not look tired even at 39. And that's perhaps the secret of India's first premier fast bowler among women – forever young and willing to challenge herself to attain supreme fitness.
Goswami has been this cool rockstar of Indian cricket, with long hair and a killer attitude. She doesn't mince her words and can confidently talk in Hindi despite knowing her limitations in the language. The honesty reflected in the middle, as she won games for India.
Irrespective of the results, she danced in the dressing room and turned mentor to youngsters when required. She maintained that cricket was a game and not war. That relaxed nature may well have been what helped her avoid the stress of international cricket during her long career.
Former India all-rounder Rumeli Dhar, who announced her retirement earlier this year, remembers Goswami for being in the "chill mode" most of the time.
"She knows how to enjoy. When she is bowling in a game, she is serious, but away from the game, she has always been in this chill mode, and I think that has helped her a lot," Dhar told The Quint.
"She enjoys a lot in the dressing room too. She can make people laugh and participate in banter. She has always danced whenever people did that. She can switch on and switch off well," she added.
Dhar, who played 78 ODIs, 18 T20Is, and four Tests for India, has known Goswami for many years as they represented Bengal in domestic cricket. They had a reunion last year during the Senior Women's ODI Trophy.
"It was great to share the new ball with her again. I even told her that it felt nice to bowl alongside her. She knows how to support youngsters. Despite the stiff competition, she advised me for my betterment,"said Dhar.
Impact of Her Personality
Dhar believes every cricketer should learn discipline, work ethics, and work-life balance from Goswami. "Her work ethic is worth mentioning. She is an example for young cricketers. I am sure today's youth will imbibe her values and discipline. She is leaving behind a legacy," she said.
Towards the later part of her career, Goswami would bowl with multiple tapes on her body to mitigate the niggles. If the training started at 8 am, she started her preparation from 6 am.
Coach Sadhu, at whose academy her cricketing dreams took flight, is now 75, and has not been keeping well but marked the calendar to watch her farewell game. He highlighted Goswami's selfless side and how she never let her international cricket success get to her mind or let it affect people close to her.
"She doesn’t have vanity. She is down to earth and a good human being. I still remember when she came to meet me after winning the ICC Woman Cricketer of The Year in 2007 – the year when no Indian male player made it to the final list. I could never give her a gift for her success. I just fed her good meals at home," remembered Sadhu.
Goswami silently helps young cricketers procure kits, and not many are aware of that.
"She never thought about herself despite winning and earning so much rewards. She instructed and advised young woman cricketers whenever she came here. She even bought a full cricket kit for two young girls here who were playing well. She understood their needs as there was a time when she did not have money to buy proper equipment," he added.
The Passion for the Indian Jersey
At her last press conference, when reporters asked her what she would miss the most in the long cricketing journey which had a lot of glamorous highs, prestigious awards including the Padma Shri and the Arjuna Award, Goswami said, "Standing on the ground and singing the national anthem is an amazing feeling. And when you wear the jersey with the name India, it is the ultimate feeling. Every day I wanted to get up and represent my country."
Goswami has been loved by all, and that was visible when current captain Harmanpreet Kaur asked her to conduct the toss in her final game as a goodwill gesture. She had made her debut under the veteran's captaincy in the Women's World Cup in Australia in 2009.
The world will remember the Chakdaha Express as someone who refused to grow old. She has been a three-time Asia Cup winner and two-time runner-up at the ODI World cup, but the hunger to improvise with time may just bring her back to the inaugural women's Indian Premier League in 2023.
Goswami hitting the top of off-stump is no less than magic.