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T20 cricket gathers pace beyond 'slow' Goswami

Jhulan Goswami goes through a warm-up routine ahead of the start of play CWI Media Photo/Adriel Richard

The India women's team isn't quite familiar with the absence of Jhulan Goswami, but the T20I side has to deal with it from here on. With 56 wickets in 68 T20Is, and less than three months to the Women's World T20, the leading T20I wicket-taker for India, and the only Indian to take five-wicket hauls across formats in women's cricket announced her retirement from T20Is on Thursday. Not for any other reason, Goswami told ESPNcricinfo, but because "T20 cricket has gathered pace beyond her abilities."

"My mind and body have been at loggerheads for a while now. I wasn't able to focus properly on the format and it's been difficult for me to motivate myself. Given the demands of T20, it doesn't help when the body of a 35-year-old fast bowler takes longer to recover than she wants it to.

"The workload in T20s is different to that in the 50-over game and I don't think my body had been supporting me in T20s. With age, my movements have got slower, so as a player, if I'm not able to give my best on the field, then I don't think I should be in the T20I side. I saw no point dragging myself in the format beyond a point. And, for me, this is the point in T20s."

The BCCI made Goswami's decision public on Thursday, hours before the board named the squads for the forthcoming tour of Sri Lanka. The decision comes in the wake of India's consecutive T20I tournament defeats. The tri-series in March saw Australia and England hand them drubbings in Mumbai, where they lost all but one game. The more telling defeat, however, came in the Asia Cup final in June in Kuala Lumpur, where India, previously unbeaten in the tournament, lost twice to Bangladesh, including in the title clash.

"The workload in T20s is different to that in the 50-over game and I don't think my body had been supporting me in T20s"

Goswami did not appear in her best touch in both matches. While Harmanpreet Kaur, the T20I captain, called the management to have more "fit players, who can run all across the ground" during tri-series, Goswami's 33-run stand with Harmanpreet in the Asia Cup final was perhaps her most significant contribution in a failed title defence.

"I had asked the selectors to convey the message to Harry [Harmanpreet] because she was in the middle of her KSL season during that time [late July and early August], "Goswami said. "She's done well in the league and I didn't want her to focus on anything but her game. But I texted her later. I also spoke at length with Mithali Raj about this, especially during the Challenger, and Mitthu agreed with the reasons I put forth."

Even as the core of the Indian side began adjusting to the appointment of interim head coach Ramesh Powar, Goswami's form showed little signs of improvement. She managed only one wicket in four innings in the recently concluded Women's T20 Challenger Trophy as India Green, captained by Veda Krishnamurthy, plummeted from one low-scoring performance to another before being knocked out.

Quitting T20I cricket, though, wasn't an "impulsive decision," Goswami insisted.

"This had been on my mind since the tri-nation series. Watching England and Australia and my own team-mates play in that tournament, I couldn't help but realise how fast the game has become. On my own part, though, I was evidently slow. But I tried my best to hone my skills in the format even after that, tried to plug the loopholes, tried adapt quicker to the format. The Asia Cup was such opportunity for me to see if the changes were working. But it didn't happen.

"I spoke to my family and my coach [Swapan Sadhu] around April-May, and he said I should do what I think would be best for myself and the team. I had since been in talks with the selectors and conveyed the final decision to them during the Challenger. They asked me to consider to try and push myself, but I could see I had already pushed myself to the limits, and perhaps it isn't fair for me to stay on and rob more deserving younger players of the opportunities. So I had to listen to my heart."

Among her best T20I outings, Goswami cherished her five-wicket haul against Australia, in 2012. "That series [Australia's tour of India] was a bit of a nightmare for us; we we're far from our best," she said. "Losing all of the first four games is never the best experience for any side. But the last match was more than just a consolation win, Amy [Amita Sharma] fought it out with a fifty and I took a five-for.

"Also, the World T20 we played in 2010 in West Indies; it was the last time we qualified for the knockouts in a T20 World Cup. I remember batting well even during the quadrangular series in England, but that 2016 series win in Australia [India's first T20I series win in Australia and Goswami was adjudged Player of the Series] was massive."

Goswami believed passing the baton to Shikha Pandey in T20Is, now the second-most experienced quick bowler in the India side, was part of a natural transition. In Goswami's absence during the 50-over World Cup qualifiers in February 2017, Pandey led the pace attack in India's title-winning campaign. With the conditions in the Caribbean likely to favour both pace and spin in November, Goswami hoped Pandey's strengths, clubbed with the variety of the spin attack, could come in handy.

"Shikha has the skills and the experience to do well as a leader [of the pace attack] in T20s. And she'll get good assistance from Mansi Joshi, I think. Mansi's young, has the capability to hit the hard lengths and she bowled really well in the Challenger. Besides, our spinners have been doing consistently well, and with allrounders like Anuja [Patil] and Deepti Sharma in the mix, our attack can be one to reckon with."

But it's not only Pandey or Joshi alone that Goswami has her hopes on. A group of upcoming players, Goswami believed, could evolve into international fast bowlers, provided they are handled with professional expertise. This, following recent injury concerns that plagued Joshi, who returned to the squad after a nine-month lay-off. Teenager Pooja Vastrakar, too, has struggled with injuries and missed the Challenger Trophy as well as the Sri Lanka tour.

"I think quality young quicks like Arundhati Reddy, Reemalakshmi Ekka from Odisha, Shanti Kumari from Jharkhand, Suman Gulia and Sukanya Parida - these girls have the potential to do well across formats. And there's Monica Patel as well."

For anyone familiar with Goswami's ways, her decision to retire from T20Is should come as no surprise. During the World Cup last year, she had urged the coach to drop her after she had under-performed in the first two matches. She later bounced back to set up India's victory against New Zealand in the last league fixture with a searing opening spell. She followed it by snuffing out Australia in the semi-final and putting India within touching distance of the title with 3 for 23 at Lord's.

"I was pretty clear in my head about retiring from T20s, but I wanted to play the Challenger because we've not had much game practice since the Asia Cup," Goswami said. "I still need to be at my best for the ODI format. At 35, I think I'm beyond chasing milestones, but contributing to team's victories in ODIs is not beyond me."