India’s greatest ever batsman, Mithali, who ended a glorious career in July, welcomed her contemporary and speedy great Jhulan to the former cricket club on Saturday.
Having shared the dressing room for almost two decades, Mithali and Jhulan have seen the massive growth of women’s cricket in India, shared many memorable victories and also heartbreaking defeats.
Speaking to PTI about Jhulan’s immense impact, longevity and hard work over the years, Mithali began by talking about the ‘Chakdaha express” her debut when she entered the Indian team at the age of 19.
“We’re the same age, so we have that level of comfort and communication. It was always very easy to contact and talk to her. Someone who was always full of energy on the pitch, maybe because that she is a fast bowler,” Mithali said.
The 39-year-old has become the leading wicket-taker in the ODIs thanks to his dedication. While the swing isn’t his greatest weapon, the precision and use of stitching has earned him a bag full of wickets.
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The competitive spirit at Jhulan was very evident even in the nets, Mithali recalled.
“In the nets I would often ask her ‘why are you breathing fire, you’re just my teammate na’. Then she’d say ‘getting out is the hardest part’. She’s always had the competitive streak, including domestic cricket where we often played against each other. I also enjoyed this rivalry.
A fast bowler is expected to have a tough exterior, but Jhulan was also soft at heart. Mithali recalled a domestic cricket match which revealed Jhulan’s softer side.
“We were playing in the semi-finals (Railways vs Bengal). I didn’t wear my helmet during this domestic season. Jhulan was aiming straight for my head and I left a lot of his bouncers.
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“After a while she came up to me and was like ‘why aren’t you wearing a helmet? I was like ‘I haven’t been wearing a helmet’, how am I going to wear one? Those were the fun times.”
The former India captain said even the opposition would give her due respect, especially when she was in her prime.
“What stood out for her was her accuracy. She wasn’t really a swing player, she was more of a player who got the ball in and out. Cutters were her strength. In her prime, she would barely give shots. loose bullets.”
After Pacers Retire Roumeli Dhar and Amita SharmaJhulan was India’s constant in pace attack, although the team relied heavily on spin.
“She was a lone ranger through and through for a very long time. Sometimes she got support, but often she was the only one trying to push. That’s been true even lately.”
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Mithali and Jhulan started playing at a time when women’s cricket was an overlooked sport. It finally came under the aegis of BCCI in 2006.
“We probably had a lot of fun early in our careers, although she was more on the receiving end of my pranks. As we got older and matured, we saw a lot of our teammates leave the game and we both found ourselves among a group of New Faces.
“Having her on the team helped because she was also that person who talked to everyone and communicated. Whenever I needed an opinion, she always gave one.”
Mithali also fondly remembers their midfield partnerships.
“I also enjoyed playing with her and always thought she could contribute a lot more with the bat.
“There have been great partnerships, amazing wins, bad losses, we’ve seen it all. It’s a sad time (that she’s retiring) but also a time to celebrate someone who’s played for so many years. a long time. It’s not easy to have a career like that as a fast bowler.”
Talking about Jhulan’s interests off the pitch, Mithali made some interesting revelations.
“She likes to read about politics, wants to know what’s going on in the world. Her knowledge of men’s cricket also stands out. I would always tell her if ever I was in the hot seat (KBC) and a matter of cricket came, she would have him be the first person I would call.”