“Zoe’s got him...Zoe’s got the wicket of Brian Lara. Boy, that’s put a smile to her face!”
It seems ages ago, but all seemed alright with the sporting world in 2020 when a candidate for the greatest cricketer of her generation marked her run-up against a candidate for arguably the greatest cricketer of all time. One of the highlights of the star-studded charity game for the Australian bushfires in February was the contest between Sachin Tendulkar and Ellyse Perry.
The former India captain ended up facing four balls from the star Australian all-rounder, with Annabel Sutherland bowling the other two balls of the over, and the crowd at the Junction Oval in Melbourne, as indeed fans around the world, were left delighted.
This was not the first time cricket witnessed to such an unique moment. Twenty five years earlier, Zoe Goss did not just bowl at Brian Lara during a charity match, but ended up dismissing him as well.
An iconic moment
It was fitting that for a moment as iconic as Australian women’s cricket superstar dismissing the ever-charming Lara, it was Tony Greig, one of the most recognisable voices in cricket’s history, providing the commentary. Greig’s words were not just perfectly weighted as always, but he was also the man instrumental in getting Goss to be a part of the charity match in 1994.
Ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia this year, cricket.com.au ran a feature on Goss dismissing Lara and the headline read: “Cricket’s first female superstar”.
For many followers of the game, the “Zoe Goss moment” has become synonymous with women’s cricket shooting into the limelight. Lara was at the pinnacle of cricket in 1994. In the space of two months that year, ‘The Prince’ had scored two iconic daddy hundreds: first 375, and then 501 not out, breaking world records for the highest Test and first-class scores.
Goss, meanwhile, was a last-minute addition to the squad playing as Bradman XI against a World XI side that had Lara, Sunil Gavaskar, David Gower, Joel Garner to name a few iconic cricketers. In the fundraiser for the development of the Bradman Museum, Goss had the chance to rub shoulders with the greats of the game, current and past. An already surreal day veered into realms of alternate reality when she got Lara stumped. The joy on her face said it all.
That moment, as iconic as it was, also left an everlasting mark on Goss and her legacy. She went on play 65 ODIs for Australia but since that moment, also had to deal with an uncomfortable weight on her shoulders. Her “15 seconds of fame” as she put it, was not always easy to handle.
“It was difficult to navigate for me at times. It was a learning curve, let’s put it that way. I just went from Zoe....to Zoe Goss. Which was amazing in a lot of ways and great for the game,” she told ICCrecently.
While she lapped up the media attention that came her way in the immediate aftermath of that match because women’s cricket needed the platform, it became difficult for Goss to deal with the long-term impact.
“It was very unusual and quite difficult for my personality type to cope with. I’m not exactly an extrovert,” she told cricket.com.au. “I wasn’t really prepared for being famous. I was very prepared for absolutely everything else in cricket, but not that. I just didn’t think it was ever going to happen.”
The pressure became so much that she shut herself off away from the game after retirement and only recently returned as a coach, as she revealed in this emotional interview about what it meant to her to be out at the Sydney Cricket Ground on that day in 1994.
“Even now, if you mention the name Zoe Goss, there’s the automatic connection to Brian Lara. People don’t mention that she was terrific allrounder or that she played in a couple of World Cups or that she captained WA and Victoria,” her friend, coach and broadcaster Glenn Mitchell said.
“There was no way, from a public perspective or a media perspective, that anything was ever going to surpass that one moment. And it happened to her when she was still quite young and as a result of that, it hindered her in some ways from then on. She never, ever sought the publicity and the fame that went with it, but it kept following her. And she just found that uncomfortable.”
But having made her peace with it, Goss can look back at that day all these years later as the precursor for nearly 90,000 fans filling up the Melbourne Cricket Ground not to watch one woman play with 10 other men, but to see 22 women stars of the game command the stage on her own.