Harmanpreet Kaur, Bismah Maroof and Chamari Athapaththu lie in wait for UAE at Asia Cup

Prospect of facing stars of the women's game in Bangladesh gives young UAE players goose bumps

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When Samaira Dharnidharka first started out playing cricket, her coach encouraged her to follow her dream by suggesting she might be good enough to play for India one day.

Women’s Asia Cup

UAE fixtures
Sun Oct 2, v Sri Lanka
Tue Oct 4, v India
Wed Oct 5, v Malaysia
Fri Oct 7, v Thailand
Sun Oct 9, v Pakistan
Tue Oct 11, v Bangladesh

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

Now aged 15, she has already been playing international cricket for three-and-a-half years, in which time she has racked up 29 appearances.

All, so far, in the grey of the UAE. This month, for the first time, she will get the chance to face her country of origin, when UAE play the might of the continent’s elite at the Women’s Asia Cup.

Dharnidharka acknowledges the idea of facing the stars she looks up gives her goose bumps.

So, which player’s wicket would the young fast bowler prize the most? There are too many to list, she says.

“I have so many people’s names – Bismah Maroof, Harmanpreet Kaur, Jemimah Rodrigues, Smriti Mandhana, Chamari Athapaththu,” Dharnidharka said.

“There’s so many. We are playing against big, big teams, maybe our home teams, even though we have been brought up [in Dubai].

“The idea of playing against them gives us goose bumps. It is really exciting. That is when we are off the field. When we are on it, we are all focused.”

The national team will be trying to bridge a vast gap in terms of age and experience when they make their Asia Cup bow in Sylhet.

Their squad – average age of 20 - has only just made slightly more appearances in international cricket combined as India’s captain Harmanpreet has managed on her own.

And yet the youthful national team will play in Bangladesh knowing they did pick up a big scalp of their own in the recent past.

Last week, they took a thrilling last-ball win off Zimbabwe in the T20 World Cup Qualifier in Abu Dhabi.

“It was really good beating a high-ranking Test team, and hopefully we can do it again moving forward,” Dharnidharka said. “It felt really good coming back like that after some tough losses.”

According to Theertha Satish, the UAE players have a healthy respect for their opposition at the Asia Cup, but no fear.

“As a sporting team, when you are off the field, of course you look up to them,” Theertha said.

“But when you are on the field, they are just normal people. Because we were involved in FairBreak [Invitational, an all-star franchise tournament in which five UAE players were involved] as well, we got the chance to get close to a few of those players.

“Just watching how they play, how they respond to mistakes, and what goes on behind the scenes, you realise they are just like you, but with a lot more experience.

“As we go forward, maybe one day in the future we can beat them. Or maybe the near future. You never know what will happen.”

Theertha, Esha Oza, Chaya Mughal and Kavisha Kumari all played alongside the stars at the FairBreak Invitational earlier this year, while Dharnidharka and Vaishnave Mahesh were no-playing squad members for that event.

Theertha, the 18-year-old wicketkeeper, says that competition provided some valuable intel for when they face the likes of Maroof and Athapaththu in Sylhet.

“Watching the batters play, I think I picked up a few things when we faced [Pakistan captain] Bismah Maroof’s team.” Theertha said.

“Chaya was in her team as well, so we do have a few things to work with. Hopefully we can use that and everything goes our way.”

UAE start their Asia Cup campaign when they play Sri Lanka on Sunday.

Updated: September 29, 2022, 7:04 AM
Women’s Asia Cup

UAE fixtures
Sun Oct 2, v Sri Lanka
Tue Oct 4, v India
Wed Oct 5, v Malaysia
Fri Oct 7, v Thailand
Sun Oct 9, v Pakistan
Tue Oct 11, v Bangladesh

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

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