Mahika Gaur was not short of things to celebrate over the past 12 months. She was part of an Under-19 team who secured qualification to play at a World Cup, the first time a female side has managed that in the history of UAE cricket.
She played in a record-equalling senior women’s side. She was scouted by Lancashire, prompting a move to the UK and a change of schools involving a sports scholarship.
She was even part of the Manchester Originals set up for the Hundred last summer.
And then there was her 16th birthday, which will remain seared in her memory forever, seeing as she received a special message from her sporting hero.
“I came down for breakfast on my birthday, and my parents showed me a video from Mitchell Starc,” Gaur said.
“My mouth was wide open for the whole video, and I had to watch it two or three times. It was amazing. I look up to him so much as a bowler.
“He has been my biggest idol in bowling. I love his aggression, I love the way he bowls. He’d been shown videos of my bowling and he talked about my action in the video. It made my birthday.”
The resemblance to her idol is uncanny – left-arm pace delivered from a great height.
Even Starc, though, would struggle to match her return in qualifying for the Under-19 World Cup, which the UAE begin when they face Scotland in Benoni on Saturday.
In the Asia Qualifier in Kuala Lumpur in June, she took 11 wickets at an average of 2.36, while maintaining an economy rate of 1.36.
That haul included 2-11 in the last match against Thailand, which clinched UAE’s place at the World Cup.
“It was a great tournament for our team, especially that last game against Thailand, which is definitely the best match I have ever played,” she said.
“We had to fight very hard. All of our hard work had come down to that last match and it really was a team effort.
“That gave us a lot of confidence, but we realise this is a brand new tournament and things are different. We have all worked very hard again.
“We have reflected on how we can improve on individuals. For me, I have looked at what I can do better, how I can improve my game even more.
“This is a different set of teams and we know these matches will teach us lots. I’m ready to learn, I’m ready to play against a higher quality of team and really excited for the challenge.”
Eight players in the UAE squad in South Africa have already played for the senior national team.
That side might also have been in with a chance of playing at the senior World Cup, which follows on immediately after the age-group version, had Gaur been available.
She missed the qualifying tournament in Abu Dhabi, though, as it clashed with school exams.
She moved from Dubai College to Sedbergh, a school in the north of England which is renowned for sport, after a chance encounter in the UAE.
“I was bowling [at a masterclass session with Manchester Originals at Expo 2020] and one of the Lancashire staff noticed me,” said Gaur, who was born in England.
“He found out I have a British passport, and that is where the conversation started about moving back to the UK and start training over there.
“Once that was all decided, the U19 World Cup qualifiers happened. Because my performances were good, I think Lancashire felt I had some potential for the future.
“I am very grateful for that. Being involved in the Hundred was amazing. I learnt so much. I learnt how elite players deal with pressure, how they come back after bad games.
“I made many mentors, got to ask many questions, and that experience was very special for me.”