COIMBATORE: For Jhulu Di. That’s what Indian vice-captain Smriti Mandhana had said after her player of the match performance in the first ODI. Back then, little did we know that this Indian team had embodied it and made it their mission to an extent that when they got to Jhulan Goswami’s final international game at Lord’s on Saturday, they had already won the series.
Harmanpreet Kaur, who made her debut under Jhulan’s captaincy 13 years ago, was in tears as she made way for the veteran to lead India at the toss. For Jhulan, nothing mattered more than they were there having taken the 2-0 lead. She thanked the state and national boards, family, coaches and teammates as England won the toss and opted to bowl.
At the centre of the venue where she was left heartbroken having fallen short of her World Cup dream in 2017, Jhulan was standing tall, with her eternal beaming smile, posing for pictures, soaking it all in like a young kid who fell in love with cricket for the very first time. The pride was evident.
A sight to behold— Sony Sports Network (@SonySportsNetwk) September 24, 2022
Let's take you back to the moment when cricketing icon @JhulanG10 got a Guard of Honour from the team as she walked in to bat for one last time #JhulanGoswami #TeamIndia #SonySportsNetwork #SirfSonyPeDikhega pic.twitter.com/WIRd6wFBia
But as the action unfolded, the Indian batting crumbled, going down to 29/4. Deepti Sharma, first with Smriti Mandhana (50) and then with the lower-order, tried to revive the innings. As Jhulan walked in at No 9, England gave her a guard of honour and the 39-year-old, seemingly filled with happiness for a brief moment, acknowledged the gesture with a sheepish smile. But when she got out for a first-ball duck to 17-year-old Freya Kemp, born three years after her debut, the emotions were the complete opposite. In the end, Deepti's unbeaten 68 took India to 169.
When the Indian team took the field, as expected, they gave her their guard of honour. Except this was even more special. They kept shuffling to keep the guard going till Jhulan got near her bowling mark. The last Indian cricketer to receive such an honour was Sachin Tendulkar. As Jhulan kept gesturing towards every teammate of hers, the entire group felt like a bundle of joy. They were honouring the hero they had looked up to as a kid, the wonder woman they got the privilege of playing alongside and learning from. Above all, they were celebrating their Jhulu di.
They still had a job to do. Jhulan, herself, did. Chasing a paltry total, England started off well but Renuka Thakur broke the shackles, picking two quick wickets. Jhulan joined in as the hosts went from 27/0 to 43/4. The spinners and Renuka piled on, and in no time, India were all but in reach of the victory.
As Jhulan bowled her final over in international cricket, she took her 255th ODI wicket. England were nine down. The last four balls were pure drama. Every ball was an occasion as she and India searched for that final wicket. As she completed her final delivery, the entire team came together to give her a hug, forgetting that they still had a match to win. Jhulan embraced them, reaching out to every player on the outside, trying to include them in the group hug. That summed up what the team meant to her and what she meant to them.
But Charlie Dean was posing a threat. She was taking England closer to victory inch by inch. With Jhulan and Renuka bowled, India had turned to their premier off-spinner and she did not disappoint. It was only fitting that Deepti — who was the teary-eyed teenager after the final in 2017, who was on the wrong side of the bowling crease in India’s 2022 World Cup game against South Africa — ran out Dean (47) at the non-striker's end for leaving the crease early, ensuring a 16-run win for India.
A 3-0 sweep at the home of cricket, finishing with a run out at the non-striker’s end in front of 15,187 fans in the stands. It could not have gotten any better. When the broadcaster asked about the dismissal, all Harmanpreet had to say was that it was well within the rules and that she backs her player (Deepti) to the core for her game awareness. Deepti and the Indian team saw to the fact that Jhulan Goswami’s farewell match will be etched in the history books forever.
Not that the result wasn’t going to change a thing. It was always going to be a day of tributes. Cricket Association of Bengal had arranged a screening of one of their greatest sporting icon’s farewell on a giant screen before announcing that they were planning to name a stand after Jhulan at Eden Gardens, Kolkata – the venue where she dreamt of playing for India someday. But none of it mattered to this Indian team, as they wanted to do everything in their power to give Jhulan the perfect ideal. And they went on to do exactly that, for she is, after all, their — the country’s — Jhulu di.
There's no Good in Goodbye @ImHarmanpreet has an emotional moment with @JhulanG10 before the start of the 3rd #ENGvIND ODI #JhulanGoswami #SonySportsNetwork #SirfSonyPeDikhega pic.twitter.com/8WvUnCm3wI— Sony Sports Network (@SonySportsNetwk) September 24, 2022
Brief scores: India Women 169 in 45.4 ovs (Deepti 68, Mandhana 50; Cross 4/26, Kemp 2/24, Ecclestone 2/27) beat England Women 153 in 43.3 ovs (Dean 47, Jones 28; Renuka 4/29, Jhulan 2/30, Rajeshwari 2/38).