Jhulan Goswami’s international career has spanned 19 years, witnessing first-hand the evolution of and revolution in Indian women’s cricket.
But even in the two decades, the drama of the final two overs of the last two One-day Internationals against Australia in the ongoing multi-format series, is one of its kind.
A day after she bowled a last-gasp no-ball (for height) that saw Australia snatch a win from the jaws of defeat, she scored the winning runs to power India’s thrilling win in the final ODI. This after starring with the new ball and staying calm with the old.
At 38 years of age, she was the biggest factor in India ending Australia’s storied 26-match winning streak; for the second time in three days, this time for good. From the double-wicket over in the Powerplay – getting rid of Rachael Haynes and Meg Lanning on a duck (the first bowler to get the Aussie captain for naught twice) to coming at No 9 with the confidence of having played two cameos with the bat already.
The tale of two last overs, the rollercoaster of Goswami’s final two overs, is also the tale of the ODI leg of the India vs Australia series.
Even before the series began, Australia’s record ODI winning streak was being seen as very much in the twilight zone. Team India, for all its internal concerns, rarely fails to rise to the challenge when playing Australia. Moreover, these three matches were a final test for India to figure the team combination and temperament, as the coach had reiterated.
The first match was forgettable, with India taking some time to get off the block in a one-sided demolition job. The second showed just how much gap is there between India and the best of the world, despite the bountiful talent and spunk. India put up a very good score of 274 with almost all moving parts working together, but Australia’s bench strength and depth was too good.
In the third match, India were made to field for the first time, and finally, the collective unit clicked to pull off their highest successful run chase ever.
The third ODI felt like the perfect representation of this Indian women’s cricket team – the one that started Australia’s streak with a 0-3 clean sweep in Vadodara in 2018 and the one that prevented the undisputed best team in the world from reaching the World Cup in 2017. The one that lost the first match by nine wickets within 41 overs and the one that ended the streak with a last-over win.
This duality of the Indian women’s team shone through on Sunday, in a match that had all the elements of what makes this unit so compelling to watch, with all the ups and downs. In other words, the thrilling win was a reminder of both their strength and weaknesses.
A wonderful opening spell from Jhulan Goswami, adding to the tally of the highest wicket-taker in ODI cricket.
Actual support for the veteran from series debutante Meghna Singh, the latest entrant in the pacers musical chairs India has been playing.
Spinners managing to apply pressure but still not at finding the peak that once made them so lethal.
Misfields, many misfields and more misery on the field as close to eight catches were dropped and several chances went abegging.
A batting effort lead by youth as the seniors struggled. Shafali Verma being the senior partner with a restrained knock and newcomer Yastika Bhatia, solving the No 3 conundrum, scoring their first ODI half-centuries.
Richa Ghosh, getting a debut and a top-order promotion despite not being the best keeper in the squad, for the value she adds with power-hitting.
A gamble taken with a dynamic and rather inexperienced middle-order paying off with a late cameo from Sneh Rana, who was dropped in the last match to get a more diverse spin attack.
The third ODI was thus both a cause of great celebration and a reminder of India’s glaring problem areas. It was a look at how a collective effort can make India a threat to any team in world cricket as well as just how much they lack in consistency.
If this team can beat Australia at home despite so many missteps and momentum shifts, imagine what they could achieve when they get their basics right more often. Fielding, running between the wickets, building partnerships with bat and ball... these are areas that can be worked on in camps and backrooms now that the dramatic second and third ODI results have injected the much-needed fuel in India’s tank of confidence and exposure. It has highlighted that this team is capable of big feats when they get the small moments right even when things don’t seem to go their way, which can be an important reminder for many players.
While the team’s chase prowess and not-at-full-strength Australian bowling unit’s extras papered over some of the cracks, they are still very much there and visible. As last time’s finalists look beyond this series to the 2022 World Cup, this win should add self-belief while making the team more self-aware.
If Mithlai Raj and Ramesh Powar, who had outlined the vision and goals from these final ODIs before the marquee event quite clearly, can find the balance between this self-belief and self-awareness, India will be able to click together a lot more, and often, at the cost of the last-ball dramas that keep the viewers hooked on.