UAE face uphill battle in Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier

National team suffered chastening loses in four-team warm-up series

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To say the UAE will be giving away much in terms of experience to their rivals at the Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier feels like a gross understatement.

The eight-team competition, which carries with it two places at the main event in South Africa next February, involves sides from cricket’s Test elite like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

Thailand are a rising force in the women’s game, and are especially driven to play at a second consecutive T20 World Cup. And Ireland have already played at three.

By contrast, the host nation will be playing at a global qualifier for the first time, let alone anything more prestigious, with a squad that has an average age of just over 20.

Included in their ranks are three 15-year-olds who will be missing school to play.

Not that they are remotely daunted by what lies ahead. Instead, they can’t wait to get started.

“It is a really good boostfor us,” said Vaishnave Mahesh, the second youngest player in the UAE squad after Samaira Dharnidharka.

“You don’t usually get the chance to play for a national team aged 15. It is a great experience to be playing alongside players like Esha [Oza] and Chaya [Mughal].”

Despite her tender age, Vaishnave has already played 24 T20 internationals. In the most recent of those, she took 4-12 against United States with her leg-spin bowling.

When she made her debut, she was just a month past her 12th birthday. That itself was only three years after she had decided to pursue the sport seriously.

Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier

From September 18-25, Abu Dhabi . The two finalists advance to the main event in South Africa in February 2023

Group A: United States, Ireland, Scotland, Bangladesh
Group B: UAE, Thailand, Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea

UAE group fixtures:
Sept 18, 3pm, Zayed Cricket Stadium – UAE v Thailand
Sept 19, 3pm, Tolerance Oval - PNG v UAE
Sept 21, 7pm, Tolerance Oval – UAE v Zimbabwe

UAE squad: Chaya Mughal (captain), Esha Oza, Kavisha Kumari, Rinitha Rajith, Rithika Rajith, Khushi Sharma, Theertha Satish, Lavanya Keny, Priyanjali Jain, Suraksha Kotte, Natasha Cherriath, Indhuja Nandakumar, Vaishnave Mahesh, Siya Gokhale, Samaira Dharnidharka

“Dad played at a high level back in India, and I think it is genetic,” Vaishnave said.

“I used to play badminton as well, but the bat and ball attracted me more than the racket did.

“When I was nine, I played a game in the Dubai stadium in a match that [Indian leg-spin great] Mr Anil Kumble came to watch.

“In the first over, with my first ball I got a wicket. People were appreciating me a lot. It didn’t hit me then, but when I went back home, my parents were saying, ‘OK, you are pretty good at this, maybe we should take it seriously.’

“That was the point at which I thought maybe I could do this, and perhaps take it to a higher level.”

Vaishnave was born in Chennai but has lived with her family in Dubai since she was 18 months old.

She credits Murali Sockalingam, her coach at Spring Sports Academy, for turning her into a leg spinner.

“I was a pace bowler but the ball never went at a good pace,” she said.

“It would stop halfway and I could barely reach the batsman. Then my academy coach pointed out that my wrist was turning like a leg-spinner.”

The Dubai Scholars School pupil retains confidence the UAE can make their presence felt in the Qualifier, despite their troubled build up in recent weeks.

The UAE had been riding a wave of success for the previous 18 months, which had seen them go undefeated in 20 matches.

However, they were given a reality check in a four-team warm-up series in Dubai ahead of the Qualifier.

In that, they suffered losses to each of Zimbabwe and Thailand, and – more worryingly – to a United States side who were 14 places below them in the ICC rankings.

They will also be deprived of the services of Chamani Seneviratne and Mahika Gaur – mainstays of the record-breaking unbeaten run – for the Qualifier.

Despite the challenges, Vaishnave believes it will provide a great chance for the developing national team.

“The dream for everyone in the team is to play in the World Cup,” Vaishnave said.

“It would be an honour to do that. If the opportunity came my way, it would be a great pleasure to take it up.”

Updated: September 15, 2022, 2:43 AM
Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier

From September 18-25, Abu Dhabi . The two finalists advance to the main event in South Africa in February 2023

Group A: United States, Ireland, Scotland, Bangladesh
Group B: UAE, Thailand, Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea

UAE group fixtures:
Sept 18, 3pm, Zayed Cricket Stadium – UAE v Thailand
Sept 19, 3pm, Tolerance Oval - PNG v UAE
Sept 21, 7pm, Tolerance Oval – UAE v Zimbabwe

UAE squad: Chaya Mughal (captain), Esha Oza, Kavisha Kumari, Rinitha Rajith, Rithika Rajith, Khushi Sharma, Theertha Satish, Lavanya Keny, Priyanjali Jain, Suraksha Kotte, Natasha Cherriath, Indhuja Nandakumar, Vaishnave Mahesh, Siya Gokhale, Samaira Dharnidharka

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