In a parallel world, Jhulan Goswami and Punam Raut’s heroics might well have won the Indian women their first ever World Cup. However, they certainly didn’t turn out to be enough in this world. Who doesn’t want to be a hero on the cricket field? Almost everyone dreams of being the ‘messiah’ leading the team to victory single-handedly at least once in life. Everyone wants a fair share of personal glory while making the country proud.
However, no one wants to end up being a tragic hero. No one wants to perform well and still be a part of the losing team. People will tell you that you have done well and you should walk with your head held high. But inside, you know that you failed to traverse the extra mile and that will haunt you for the rest of your life. Being a tragic hero is not easy. But that is how history will remember you and you have to make truce with that.
It was in 1983 that Kapil Dev and his men defied all odds to lead India to their first ever World Cup title at the iconic Lord’s in London. Thirty-four years later, there was every chance of history being repeated at the same venue. However, this time it was Mithali Raj and her Women in Blue. When Goswami bowled that fabulous second spell, it was being compared to what Dev did with the ball in 1983. Goswami completely derailed the English batting lineup which was operating smoothly until then.
Her first spell of five overs accounted for just nine runs. However, she didn’t pick up any wicket. It seemed to be pretty normal as that was how she had bowled in the entire tournament. Yes, she demolished the Australian top order in the semi-final with a couple of wickets. But, apart from that, she had picked up a mere five wickets in the seven group stage matches.
The bowling figures in her first spell seemed to be pretty good for a veteran whose wicket-taking capabilities seemed to be on the wane. It turned out to be good in the context of the game also as it didn’t allow England to score runs freely at the beginning.
A while later she surprised everyone with something special. She showed that even though she had lost some of her bowling capabilities with age, there was still no alternative to experience. Her captain Raj summoned her to bowl at a time when England were in total command of the game.
Goswami came on to bowl and struck twice in successive deliveries to dismiss the well-set Sarah Taylor and the dangerous Fran Wilson. First, it was a beautiful delivery that just shaped away enough from Taylor to kiss the outside edge of her willow and land straight into the keeper’s gloves. Next up was a superb yorker that caught Wilson plumb in front of the stumps.
She didn’t stop there. She found peace only after dismissing Natalie Sciver, who had made her way to a fifty. She tricked her with a superb delivery that shaped inwards from over the stumps to trap her leg before wicket. England, once in a commanding position of 146/3, found themselves at 164/6 as a result of Goswami’s exploits, which read 10-3-23-3. It was the 38th over then and England went on to score 64 more runs in the next 77 deliveries to post a total of 228/7 on the board.
Goswami had done her job with the ball and Raut decided to take the charge with the bat. Her innings on Sunday was almost similar to the one she played against the same side in their opening encounter. She scored the same identical score of 86. The only differences were the deliveries faced, the number of boundaries hit and of course the result of the match.
If Raut would have been granted one divine wish, she would have surely wanted to swap the results of the two games. However, there is no place for fairytales in real life and you have to deal with it. She did almost everything right for the major part of the innings. She rotated the strike, struck those occasional boundaries, and more importantly, acted as the glue that held the Indian innings together.
With an Indian victory 38 runs away and a personal milestone 14 runs away, she failed to put bat on a delivery that trapped her plumb in front of the stumps. There was the end of a fabulous knock and the beginning of a fabulous spell from Anya Shrubsole that would lead England eventually to their fourth World Cup title. Disappointed and dejected, Raut walked back to the pavilion with a belief that her teammates would see it off for the team.
However, India lost their last seven wickets for a mere 28 runs and thus fell short of England’s total by just nine runs. Even Goswami had contributed a golden duck in that. With India on the cusp of defeat, Raut could be seen sitting in the dug-out and almost in tears. Her heart was heavy as she was regretting the moment she got dismissed more than her teammates’ inability to finish things off.
Both Goswami and Raut wished if they could have gone that extra mile. But all of that is history now. Their contributions were overshadowed and undone by a superb spell of 6/46 from Shrubsole. Their names will no longer go down in history as the ‘heroes of India’s World Cup triumph’. Instead, they will go down as the heroes who ended up on the wrong side of the battle.
(This article first appeared on Firstpost on July 24, 2017)