Women's Quadrangular, Chennai February 22, 2007

Khadeer closing in on milestone

Nishi Narayanan in Chennai

Nooshin Al Khadeer: nine short of 100 wickets © Getty Images

Watching a net session a day before a match can sometimes be a lot more intriguing than watching the match itself. Particularly, if a fast bowler and a spinner take turns to bowl to an attractive left-hander.

Jhulan Goswami has a ten-step run-up, each step carrying a more ominous sign for the batsman than the one before. Pouting all the way she gives a slight leap in the air at the top of her run-up and with a front-on action and a straight right arm delivers the ball on the line of the off stump. With her eyes crinkled, at times she appeals loudly while at other times she just turns back muttering and gesturing to herself.

Preeti Dimri has a three-step run-up, each step as noiseless as the one before. Her left arm comes over her head and drops down softly after releasing the ball from its grip. Travelling in the air with a fair bit of speed, the ball lands on the hard practice surface and just barely spins into the left-hander. Expressionless through her session, Dimri merely twirls her fingers trying to read her own delivery.

Jaya Sharma is the attractive left-hander. She had a good game on Wednesday scoring 61 in an opening partnership of 121. As in the game, she uses her feet to play the spinner and hangs back in the crease while facing the fast bowler. Though beaten at times, Sharma more often than not went hard at the ball and had to yell out to fielders practising at the far end of Chepauk's outer ground to duck. Sudha Shah, the Indian coach, said while watching Sharma: "It helps the confidence greatly when you have scored some runs."

The three players should be key performers for India in their Quadrangular match against Australia on Friday, along with Nooshin Al Khadeer, India's right-arm offbreak bowler who has 91 wickets to her name at the moment. Khadeer considers herself unlucky for not having a couple more - she dropped a caught-and-bowled chance and had a stumping missed off her bowling - but says that while the match is on, all that she is aiming for is to have it won for the team.

"I had no clue I was so close to 100 wickets till Anju [Jain], the media manager, told me about it," said Khadeer. "The landmark is always there in the back of my mind but I don't consciously think of it." Khadeer added that, during her practice session, she was trying to slow her pace as the wicket at Chepauk was a flat batting track. "If you bowl quicker here, then the ball comes right on to the bat. I noticed that those who bowled slow in the previous match got more success. So I have decided to do the same."

India won their opening match against England by 18 runs and will hope the momentum of the victory will help them against Australia - the world champions - who lost to New Zealand, in their opening match, despite putting up a total of 260.