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Women's Cricket

When Mithali met Jhulan: A prized wicket, a waterproof watch and a 22-year partnership

Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami first played against each other 22 years ago. Little did they know then that the two of them would form the greatest partnership of all time for Indian women's cricket.

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Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami have been playing together for India for two decades now (Getty)


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 10 March 2022 7:42 AM GMT

Jhulan Goswami and Mithali Raj have been the two pillars of the Indian women's cricket team for over two decades now. But did you know that the first time they met each other, they were on opposite sides?

The historic meeting happened in the Under-19 Chandra Tripathi tournament in Rae Bareilly in February 2000 in a match between East Zone and South Zone. Jhulan, 17, was making her debut for East Zone. Mithali, also 17, had broken through to the Indian national team already.

Jhulan bowled Mithali with her first ball of the match for a duck that day.

"Mithali had played for India just a few days before I was getting into the senior team. We were playing a tournament, and somebody introduced me to her, saying this is Mithali Raj, an India player," Jhulan had narrated during a conversation with Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues on their 'Double Trouble' show.

"When we were playing the match the next day, a senior player came to me and said if I could get Mithali out for zero, I would get a waterproof watch. Waterproof watches were a big deal back then. Mithali came out to open the innings - she used to play as an opener those days - and luckily I bowled her out with my first ball. My first wicket was Mithali in domestic circuit," Jhulan said.

Mithali's South Zone won this match, but debutant Jhulan had made an instant mark. In less than two years, she would debut for India too.

Now nearing their forties, Mithali and Jhulan still remain the national team's bulwarks. Jhulan has the distinction of being a rare 39-year-old pacer who her team still uses as a stock bowler. Mithali also remains the most dependable batter in the middle order.

The two of them have been a link between very different eras in women's cricket. When they were rising up the ranks, women's cricket was an obscure sport and not thought to be a viable career path. The Indian women's cricket played no international matches between 1986 and 1993 and then between 1995 and 1999.

At the 2022 World Cup, which will probably break all women's cricket records in terms of viewership and social media following by the time the trophy is lifted, they are playing alongside some teammates who had not even been born when they made their debuts.

"Jhulan Goswami was by my side in 2005 and has been an ever-present member of the Indian team in all those years since, she has amassed 240 wickets in ODIs, 60 more than anyone else and luckily shows no signs of slowing down. We both so badly want to win an ICC World title before we call it a day," Mithali Raj wrote in her column for ICC before the start of the World Cup.

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