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An unfortunate end to two glittering careers

Last updated on 28 Mar 2022 | 06:47 AM
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An unfortunate end to two glittering careers

India's elimination at the mega event cast question marks regarding the future of Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami in the national side

44.3: Mignon du Preez smashes a fuller delivery from Rajeshwari Gayakwad straight into the hands of Smriti Mandhana at long-on. Dear, oh-dear, India's premier batter has put down a sitter, and the crowd cannot believe what just happened at the Hagley Oval. 

Just as the Indian fans were recovering from the reprieve given to South Africa's most experienced batter, Deepti Sharma bowled a no-ball off the penultimate delivery in the last over to give South Africa yet another chance to stage a comeback in this game. 

And, guess what, the 32-year-old made India pay heavily for their sloppy work in the field as she clipped the ball through mid-wicket on the final delivery of the game to power the team to a win in a cliffhanger, breaking a billion Indian hearts. 

Over the past few years, India have an art of crumbling under pressure, and the riveting contest against South Africa was no different as the Women in Blue fumbled with the ball all through the innings in this must-win clash. 

In a game filled with ebbs and flows and plenty of drams between two fierce competitors, it surely provided the fans with a Sunday blockbuster. However, as the world came crashing down for the players and the frenzy fans of Indian cricket, spare a thought for two of the stalwarts of Indian cricket, who in all likelihood will bid adieu to the sport, especially in a world event. 

While there has not been any official confirmation on the same, the duo are erring on the wrong side of the age factor and will struggle to pull through four years of gruelling cricket to be fit for the next edition of the extravaganza. 

In a post-match press conference, the Indian skipper refrained from commenting on the future by saying, "It would not be appropriate for me to comment on my future, considering that the sort of game that we just played and as emotions are still there. It needs to settle down before I could sort of have clarity on that and give an answer to that."


Despite all the talks about the strike rate of Mithali or Jhulan's inability to create inroads in the last couple of series, the sport could not have been more indebted to the two torch-bearers of women's cricket. 

In a country with a population of a billion people and land where cricket is followed like a religion, cricket was still considered a gentleman's game in an era on either side of this century in India. 

However, if you happen to walk down any street in the nation and ask a layman to name the Indian women's players, the reply would undoubtedly be Mithali and Goswami. 

Two young girls with a dream of donning the national colours defied odds to create an impact that ensured millions of youngsters follow their passion and take up the sport. 

While they have shattered numerous records in their respective facets of the game as professional players, they have given women's cricket a lot more than the records by being at the forefront of creating a niche for women's sport in India. 

In an era where women's cricket was struggling for basic facilities and a touch of attention from the higher authorities, the duo underwent gruelling hours of session to hone their skills and ensure the flag of the Indian side was always flying high. 

While the 2013 edition of the iconic event in India was touted to be a game-changer in women's cricket, it showcased the glaring issues that plagued the women's sport as the venue of the mega event was shifted days ahead of the inaugural game to accommodate a Ranji Trophy match.

A below-par performance in the league phase of the competition resulted in the host nation bowling out of the quadrennial event. However, for the Indian team and the management, it was the start of a new era of women's sport with Mithali at the forefront.

While she was at the helm in the 2013 edition of the competition, the Indian team made a plethora of changes to their squad and tweaked their style of play with the inclusion of Smriti Mandhana at the top of the order. 

With an eye on the 2017 World Cup, India started to compete a lot more at the international level against quality opposition, with Mithali and Jhulan shouldering the bulk of the responsibility of the side. 

"We want to win the World Cup because it would be a revolution kind of a thing for Indian women's cricket," these words of Mithali resonate in the ears of every passionate Indian fan. 

While they fell agonisingly short in the summit clash at the Home of Cricket, the Indian team created a revolution back home with millions of young kids taking up the sport, trying to emulate their idols.


Five years later, and amid the growing concerns of the pandemic, Mithali and Goswami set foot at the Bay Oval for the opening match against arch-rivals Pakistan, knowing this would be their last chance to win the elusive world title. 

In a campaign filled with plenty of ups and downs, the Women in Blue entered the Hagley Oval against a high-flying South African side in the final league match of the competition, with their survival hanging by a thread. 

However, minutes before the all-important toss, the Indian team were jolted with a massive blow as Goswami was ruled out of the game due to a side strain. 

In over a two-decade-long career and after competing in five world events, this was the first World Cup match the veteran pacer was set to miss.

Such has been the aura of the 39-year old that Indian cricket, especially the bowling unit, revolves around her experience.

Only time would tell how much would they miss her in the field as India opted to bat first, and all eyes were on the form of the skipper. After a lukewarm tournament by her standards, Mithali walked in at number four, with India in the 17th over. 

While all the focus has been on the strike rate of the 39-year old, she answered her critics in a way only Mithali could do as she smashed a stroke-filled 68 off 84 deliveries to power India to 274 runs in the first innings.

And, while they were missing their premier pacer, it was time for the youngsters in the side to shine with the ball in the second innings. 

While the whole team and the fans across the world wished India's win and a chance to witness Goswami in action in the semi-finals, it wasn't meant to be as the Women in Blue lost a last-ball thriller, drawing curtains to their World Cup campaign and possibly the glittering careers of two of India's greatest players in women's sport. 

And just like Mithali said in the post-match conversation, "Everything does come to an end," however, we hope this is just the start of something special in their journey to contribute to the sport in ways beyond the 22 yards. 

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