Kavisha Kumari dedicated her match-winning turn in what she termed UAE’s “greatest win” to her recuperating mother.
The 19-year-old batter finished unbeaten on 41 as the national team executed a stunning heist to beat Zimbabwe off the last ball in the Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier on Wednesday night.
The extraordinary denouement to the game at the Tolerance Oval brought with it jubilant scenes of celebration from the UAE players. After which, the majority peeled away to repeat the revelry with their families beyond the picket fence.
Kumari’s parents were conspicuous by their absence. Father Jagath and mother Nalani are permanent fixtures at UAE matches, supporting their daughter.
And yet they have missed this competition while Nalani continues her recovery at home from an illness which saw her hospitalised for two weeks last month.
Kumari’s training ahead of the Qualifier was disrupted as she helped care for her sick mother. It has scarcely showed, though, as her performances have been typically excellent.
She averages 110 in the competition so far, lifting her career average to 42.85, which is the second highest in the history of women’s T20 international cricket.
“Mum was hospitalised for two weeks in August,” Kumari said.
“She is slowly recovering, but it has been a very tough run. She actually wanted to come for these matches in Abu Dhabi, but me and dad told her she had to stay as we didn’t want her to risk it.
“These runs I have been scoring are all for her. I also changed my jersey number. I used to wear No 23, now I am wearing No 7 as it is my mum’s birthday on October 7.
“To honour her, I changed my jersey number, and as you can see it has worked really well.
“I scored 40 against Thailand [in the opening match]. That day was an off day [from work] and all the parents came in.
“I was checking the stands to see if they surprised me. Unfortunately they were staying at home and watching.
“It is tough on me, but when I’m at the ground I don’t think about it. I just get into my zone. She is recovering slowly and everything is moving forward.”
While her parents have been consigned to watching from home on the livestream on the ICC’s website, Kumari is grateful for how her colleagues have looked out for her.
“I can imagine they will be talking [at the monitor] saying, ‘Kavi, don’t get out. Don’t do anything stupid,’” she said of her parents back at home.
“They have been supporting me massively over the phone. It is emotional that they are not there, as they have always been there for all my matches.
“Since August that’s changed as we can’t leave mum alone. I’ve also got to thank my teammates and their parents, who have made sure I’ve been comfortable and treated me as if I’m their own daughter.
“Thanks to that, it has felt like they are there with me, even though they are not there.”
They bounced back in sensational style to shock a Zimbabwe side who were hitherto undefeated, and who has comfortably beaten them in a warm-up T20I in Dubai a week earlier.
“It would have been much better if I had stayed at the wicket in the PNG game as there is a high chance we could have won the game,” she said.
“But defeating a Test nation is a big deal and for me to contribute to the last over was important.
“I was hesitant over whether to go for it or not from the 15th over onwards. There was a great value on my wicket as I felt I could change the game.
“The three runs off that wide gave us a massive chance to make a comeback at the end. Honestly, I would say this is the greatest win for us.
“In the losses we had before, we were not trashed. We played well and gave our all. We lost by bare minimum margins. It means our players know what we are doing, it just wasn’t out day.
“Beating higher ranked teams gives you a boost, and we always have that self-belief. We have dragged all the games to the 19th and 20th overs.
“With the young team that we have, we are really proud of the way we are playing.”