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I used to tie my cricket kit to the tree so my mother never found out: Jhulan Goswami

Cricket is still a gentleman’s game, or at least, a man’s game. Things appear to have improved, sure. There is a World Cup for the ladies, and Test Series’ too, but they seldom get even a fraction of the spotlight that favours the opposite sex.

Not surprisingly, then, parents are reluctant to let their daughters don flannels. Consider this story, much like Jasminder from Bend it like Beckham Indian skipper Jhulan Goswami– one of the best pacers in the world– had to hide her cricket kit on a tree so her mother would not discover that she was sneaking out to play tennis ball cricket that too with the boys!

“I used to play cricket tournament with boys,” revealed Jhulan candidly. “My mother was so against it and never spared me if she ever found out. So I had a kit which I would tie to a tree and as soon as a friend would inform me about a match, I would wait for my mother to go out and I would get the kit from top of the tree and run for the match,” she laughs recalling those days.

For Jhulan, the situation would get worst if her mother found out. “If my mother found out, she would burn my bit.”

But this never deterred Jhulan from pursuing the sport. She would go to any extent to get on the field and bowl a few overs with a tennis ball.

“I used to bunk school to play cricket, which used to anger my parents a lot. But once I started playing well, things changed. But initially it was like hell for me,” recollects the Arjuna awardee.

Getting the world to take women cricketers seriously is not easy, and to that end, family support counts for plenty.

Veteran cricketer and coach Sudha Shah put things in perspective. “I think family support is very important, no matter if you are from a big city or small. There are some families in the city even now where parents are old fashioned and don’t want their daughters to play cricket,” she explains.

In the 90s, it was a matter of going door-to-door requesting people to send their daughters to play cricket, recounts Shah. “I remember earlier we had to go house to house, speaking to the parents and requesting them to send their daughters for practice. Things are a lot better now,” she says.

“Now that the women’s cricket is a part of BCCI, a lot has changed. The girls are lucky bunch now. The facilities are very good compared to earlier. Once we start winning big tournaments, things will only get better. We are moving forward in the right director,” says Jhulan.

The Indian women’s team has done exceedingly well over the past few years. Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami even rank in the top five among world’s best batswomen and bowlers respectively. They even won the Asia Cup T20 tourney recently but even to this day getting the world to take notice of women’s cricket and take them seriously is not easy. “Some of them still raise eyes brows when we tell them we play cricket for a living,” Jhulan concluded.

Braving the odds, though, they pick up the willow and swing their arms. The game, after all, is still theirs to be played.

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