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'Very easy to dismiss Kaif'

April 21, 2005 09:30 IST

Neetu DavidKnown as the Bishen Singh Bedi of women's cricket, Neetu David has been an integral part of the Indian team since making her international debut in February 1995.

"It feels great to be compared with Bedi, who was a great left-arm spinner in his time," she says with a smile.

David made her presence felt on the big stage, emerging the leading wicket-taker in the just-concluded women's cricket World Cup in South Africa, with a haul of 20 wickets at a miserly average of 8.35, on pitches that assisted fast bowling.

"When I played in South Africa in 2000, the wickets supported pace bowlers and I struggled a bit there. But, this time, we studied the opponents very well and bowled to a plan. Hence, though the wickets were similar, our spinners were able to produced good results."

In fact, the top three wicket-takers in the tournament were all Indians. Anju Sharma, with 14 scalps, and Jhulan Goswami, 13, ranked second and third respectively behind David.

The team, led by Mithali Raj, exceeded all expectations before being comprehensively outplayed by Australia in the final.

"Of course, it was a bit disappointing to lose in the final. Still, we are proud of our performance," said David.

Chasing Australia's score of 215 for 8, the Indians were bowled out for 117 in 46 overs.

"We lost early wickets in the final which proved crucial. But I must stay that the team fought very well till the end."

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David, who is employed with the Railways as a senior clerk, also paid rich tributes to Raj, who played the last two matches despite nursing an injury.

Raj's magical knock of 94 was instrumental in India beating defending champions New Zealand by 40 runs in the semi-final.

"In the semi-final, Mithali played a great innings of 94 in spite of being injured. It was one of the best knocks I have ever seen."

The 27 year old also recalled her playing days with Indian batsman Mohammad Kaif.

"I used to practice with the boys team in 1993-94, and that was the time when I used to play with Kaif."

Asked whether she was ever able to claim his wicket, she replied with a wide grin: "Yes, I used to get his wicket a lot."

How was it possible?

"It is very easy to dismiss Kaif. He gets frustrated when you bowl a tight line and length to him. He will try a rash shot and get out," she added with an air of triumph.

However, disappointment was writ large on her face when asked whether the team received as much adulation as Sourav Ganguly's squad, which produced a similar finish in the 2003 World Cup.

"It is a bit disappointing that we did not get the same amount of praise as the men's team. But this is just the start; the future of women's cricket in India is looking up and I am quite sure that we will produce good cricket in the years to come and make our country proud."

David also thanked former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, who regularly encouraged the players.

"Gavaskar used to call us a lot in South Africa and encourage us. It was really nice of him and I must thank him for that."

Dismissing talk that the second placing at the World Cup was a fluke, she hastened to add, "A lot of hard work and preparation went into it. We had camps in Mysore which helped us improve our fitness. We also paid special attention to fielding.

"The team is a good mixture of youth and experience and will definitely win the World Cup in 2009."

Harish Kotian