Jhulan Goswami









Fearsome foe Goswami is secret gentle giant




India fast bowler Jhulan Goswami pace has long scared batters around the world, so it's no surprise she's the world no 1 bowler in the ICC rankings. But if she had listened to others, she would never have even played cricket.

Goswami grew up watching cricket on the television with her dad, but attempts to join in with the boys were met with derision. She had to fetch the ball from the boundary at first. Then, when she got a chance to bowl when she was older, she was told she was too slow.

"I felt very angry. In those days, if you were just a batsman that meant you were not a cricketer. You have to bowl, you have to bat. I took it as a big challenge."

Goswami set about becoming the fastest bowler she could, taking inspiration from heroes Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath and Glenn McGrath.

Her family did not want her to play cricket - "Indian culture is totally different. They said 'No, you have to study'" - but Goswami was not deterred. She promptly brought her coach round to explain her commitment and her talent. "As long as I worked hard they said 'Carry on.' They never stopped me."

But not even Goswami knew she would captain India one day. She didn't even know that women played cricket until December 1997 when, as a 14-year-old, she went along to the World Cup final at Eden Gardens, in her native Kolkata, to see Australia beat New Zealand.

"That was the biggest thing in my life. If I'd not watched that match I wouldn't be a cricketer. I realised I have to play cricket for my country. That was only a dream at that point."

Determination being her byword, Goswami worked her way up to the India team within five years and was included in the very next World Cup squad, in New Zealand in 2000.

She points to India on her shirt. "To play for India is a massive, massive thing. It's the biggest thing in my life. I'm very proud of myself. I had a simple goal, to play for India. My parents are so proud."

Her finest moment came in 2006, when she bowled England into the ground with a ten-wicket Test haul at Taunton, comprising two five-fors, using her decent bounce and good movement.

Her display led India to its first series victory on English soil and was instrumental in her becoming the ICC Women's Cricketer of the Year for 2007. "It was a big thing for me. After that so many people recognised me. It's also a big thing for women's cricket as are the ICC rankings."

Then came the captaincy when she took over from Mithali Raj in 2008.

"I never thought about being captain. It's a big honour and I grabbed it with both hands. Cricket is my passion, I love to play."

Such is her love for bowling that even team-mate Mithali is a target. "She is the best batsman in the world. Whenever I get the opportunity to bowl to her in nets, I love to bowl her."

For all her ferocity with ball in hand, Goswami is really a gentle giant and is the first player to congratulate the opposition. England batsman Sarah Taylor recalls how Goswami came up to her and gave her a hug after her fifty against India in the opening match of the ICC World Twenty20 2009. "She's so friendly," says Taylor.

Goswami simply loves cricket and is keen to encourage the young international players of any team. There is a wider desire, too, which links right back to finding out women's cricket existed in the 1997-98 World Cup.

"Even today hardly people know girls play women's cricket so the ICC World Twenty20 is very important. When both the women's and men's matches are televised together, people will take the sport seriously.

"It's very important for India to do well this tournament, we can inspire them and be good role models."