A landmark moment as 'flourishing' UAE women's cricket is broadcast for the first time

Long-serving captain Chaya Mughal believes breakthrough match at Sharjah Cricket Stadium will change the future

The timing was neat. Ashleigh Gardner hit the six that gave Australia a world record 22nd one-day international win in a row, and within an hour footage of it had been viewed 25,000 times on Twitter.

Any aspiring cricketers in the UAE who happened upon the clip on Sunday morning might have wondered when they might get their next online fix.

The answer was, in just over a days’ time. And this time the action will be happening on their own doorstep.

On Monday evening, the schoolgirls, university students and teachers who double up as the leading players of the female game in the UAE will play in a live broadcast match for the first time.

Scratch sides known as the ECB Hawks and ECB Eagles will meet in a T10 fixture at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

And Chaya Mughal, one of the longest serving players in the elite game in the UAE, is hoping it will be a landmark moment for the sport here.

“It is an encouragement for the players to push forward,” Mughal, the Hawks captain, said.

“If they are on the screen, they have the chance to impress everyone. Until now, UAE women’s cricket has not been so much in the picture. But now, we are live in front of the cameras on Facebook.

“When there is a camera there they feel motivated. They know people are watching them, and they want to give their best. It is going to change their approach to the game.”

Mughal has been involved in the national set-up for eight years, after moving from India to take up a teaching job in Dubai. As soon as she arrived, she sought out cricket.

“It is in my blood,” Mughal said. “I can’t stop playing cricket. Even if I’m sick, I will still play cricket. Cricket is my first priority, and everything else comes later.

“When I started playing, there were hardly any girls, barely enough to start a team.

“Now it is flourishing in UAE. We have a bunch of girls, a mixed blend of youngsters with their passion and energy to senior players with plenty of experience.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Paul Radley. Sport. Chaya Mughal goes through fielding drills. UAE's leading women's players training before their T10 exhibition match next week. Wednesday, March 31st, 2021. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Chaya Mughal goes through fielding drills ahead of Monday's match. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“Hopefully more players, if they see this online, will feel motivated to come and join us.”

The roster of players for Monday’s fixture includes a broad range of expertise. Mughal, for example, is 34 and had years of experience playing in India before arriving in Dubai.

At the other end of the age scale are the likes of 15-year-old Mahika Gaur, a 6ft left-arm fast-bowler who models her game on Mitchell Starc, and 14-year-old Samaira Dharnidharka.

Despite her youth, allrounder Dharnidharka is said to be the fastest bowler in the squad already, which explains her affinity with Anrich Nortje.

Not that the players limit themselves to role models in the men’s game. They had enough to choose from the last time women’s cricket from Sharjah was aired live, when the Women’s T20 Challenge ran in parallel with the 2020 IPL season a few months ago.

“When we saw the women’s IPL happen, that motivated the girls,” Chaitrali Kalgutkar, the Hawks coach, said.

“They could see the future is really bright, and that there are a lot of opportunities moving forward. The game is growing all over the globe.

“Over the next two years, hopefully we will see these youngsters on a bigger platform.

“Considering the way the game has developed over the past so many years, and the way their game has picked up as individuals, I’m sure the talent will out.

“This will be a good experience and good exposure for the girls, to have their match livestreamed.”

Najeeb Amar, the coach of the Falcons side, has also been overseeing the ECB Blues side in the men’s Emirates D10 competition. He is happy the side’s leading female players have the chance to share the stage.

“For the past five or six months these players, especially the youngsters, have been putting in a lot of effort,” Najeeb said.

“They are very committed, very talented girls but they need more exposure. To be on the screen has been a big motivation for them.

“There is a lot of passion for the game, and I hope that in the next three years these girls will be near the top in cricket.”

Published: April 4, 2021 12:37 PM


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