Indhuja Nandakumar says she has not dreamt of sharing a field with Smriti Mandhana and the other stars of Asian cricket just yet, even though her exploits brought that prospect another step closer.
The 16-year-old schoolgirl has already ticked off one ambition so far this month. She was part of the UAE side that sealed qualification for the first Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup in comprehensive style in Malaysia.
She has managed to get extended leave from Our Own English High School al Warqa in Dubai to stay in Kuala Lumpur to try to help the senior team achieve a similar feat in the ACC T20 Women’s Championship.
The two finalists in the eight-team competition will advance to the Asia Cup in Bangladesh later this year, where they will face the likes of India, Pakistan, et al.
The national team moved to the top of their pool with a 31-run win over Malaysia on Monday.
It was their second win from three matches, with their other fixture, the opener against Oman, abandoned due to rain with the UAE already well set.
Victory over Malaysia maintained their remarkable unbeaten streak in T20 internationals, but they were briefly given a scare by the host nation.
The national team have now won their past 16 completed matches in a row, with the abandoned game against Oman with which they started the current tournament taking their undefeated run to 17. England hold the record of 20 in the format.
For much of the run the UAE have been on, they have crushed their opponents while hardly breaking sweat.
That was not exactly the case this time around, as Malaysia seemed on course to challenge them in their pool match in the Asia Cup qualifying event.
The UAE did start in typically dominant fashion. Theertha Satish batted through the innings and ended unbeaten on 52.
Kavisha Kumari added impetus at the other end, making 45 not out in 33 balls to take the national team up to 134 for one from their 20 overs.
After an early direct hit run out from Samaira Dharnidharka, it appeared the UAE were going to steamroller their hosts in the run chase.
However, a defiant stand from Elsa Hunter and Mas Elysa – who each made 34 – had the home side on course for victory.
Nandakumar extinguished any hopes Malaysia had of an upset, though, with a sparkling spell of seam bowling.
The 16-year-old bowler, who was part of the UAE’s age-group side who qualified for the Under 19 World Cup recently, took four for 10 to turn the game in the national team’s favour.
The hosts finally fell 31 runs short, as they made 103 for eight from their 20 overs.
“It is really exciting,” Nandakumar said of the prospect of advancing to the Asia Cup.
“The idea of meeting my role models and playing against them is something I have not even dreamt of.”
During the third-wicket stand of 54 between Hunter and Elysa, the UAE had appeared rattled, according to Winifred Duraisingham, the Malaysia captain.
“We had been on track and, in the middle, the UAE looked panicked,” Duraisingham said.
“I don’t know why, but we also became panicked, when we had been on track.”
Nandakumar acknowledged the UAE had felt under pressure, but responded positively.
“We were kind of nervous but we did not show that much,” Nandakumar said.
“We know what to do, and what is our role, so it was just a case of doing our jobs.
“I wasn’t worried. My job is just to keep things simple and try to create pressure.
“My coach has told me that even if it is a very pressurised situation, I shouldn’t panic, but just do your job to 200 per cent.”
The UAE aim to take a step closer to qualification, as well as extend their unbeaten run to 18, when they face Qatar on Wednesday.