The teacher, students, and university graduate selected from UAE to play in the FairBreak Invitational next month might be forgiven for feeling a sense of trepidation when the great and good of women’s cricket start arriving in Dubai.
The national team have yet to play a game on the world stage. So the four players might be somewhat starry-eyed when the likes of Sophie Devine, Stafanie Taylor and Mignon du Preez are in their midst at the new T20 franchise competition.
And yet one of the local representatives at the event, to be staged at Dubai International Stadium from May 4, has one achievement to her name that none of the global stars can match.
When Esha Oza smashed 158 not out in a T20 international against Bahrain last month, it was the highest score ever in a limited-overs international by a UAE cricketer – male or female.
Only one player – who was, coincidentally, in the opposition that day – has managed more in a women’s T20I innings.
And the next player on the list of highest T20I scores by female players? Alyssa Healy, the celebrated Australian.
Not bad for a 23-year-old opener who is currently fully devoted to cricket, while looking for a full-time job after graduating with a business management degree from University of Wollongong Dubai.
“Before the last ball I got to know about the record because everyone was shouting from outside the field that I needed four runs to beat the record,” Oza said about her record-breaking innings in the GCC T20 in Muscat in March.
“Before that I had no idea and it had not been playing on my mind. On the last ball, I stepped out. It had been going for a wide but because I stepped out, I left the ball as I thought I would get the wide. It wasn’t given as a wide.
“I had the chance to break the record, but it was still my favourite day in cricket so far.
“You always dream of scoring a hundred for your country. I made my first hundred, and went on to get 150, too, so it was a dream come true.”
It goes to show the savviness of those recruiting for the FairBreak event that Oza was signed for their new competition well before her record-breaking effort against Bahrain.
It is set to involve 90 players from 36 countries. Forty of the players are from full Test-playing nations, with the rest coming from destinations as diverse as Bhutan, Vanuatu, Germany, as well as Oza, Chaya Mughal, Kavisha Kumari and Theertha Satish from the UAE.
Oza was contracted back in November. She is looking forward to playing against Devine, the New Zealand batter whose style she aims to imitate.
“I love the way she plays and the way she hits the ball,” Oza said of Devine.
“I like to go out there and enjoy my batting, and I think that is what she does. She is a fearless cricketer. She goes there, watches the ball and hits the ball, and that’s what I like to do.
“It is the first time we are going to get to play against the international stars from Australia, England and all the big teams.
“I am excited rather than nervous. I have played against a few of the players before when I was part of the ICC development squad and we played against the [English] Kia Super League sides.
“I really enjoyed that back then and I think it is going to be a really good experience this time.”
Oza’s rise in the sport has been rapid since she first started out aged 14 at Desert Cubs, the prolific Dubai-based cricket academy.
“The first day I went there, there were only boys training there,” she said.
“At first they said, ‘There are no girls, so you can think about it again – or you can train with the boys, we are OK with that.’
“That is when I started, training with boys. I used to play football before starting cricket, and always played football with boys. I liked the competition.
“That is why I had no problems with it. I never thought, ‘oh, there are no girls, how will I play?’ I always enjoyed playing more with the boys.”
Oza, Kumari, Mughal and Satish will all be in action for the national team first, in four T20 internationals against Hong Kong in Ajman starting on Wednesday.