Future looks bright for UAE women's cricket after youngsters shine in T10 showdown

Teenagers Kavisha Kumari, Samaira Dharnidharka and Mahika Gaur leave lasting impressions

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The title of the exhibition fixture ahead of the Emirates D10 final on Monday night was largely a misnomer.

At the end of it, players from a side known as the ECB Hawks posed in front of a sign proclaiming them champions of the “Women’s All Stars” match.

However, a raft of those involved are still just girls. It is a boon for UAE cricket that many of those who shone in a match broadcast live for the first time are teens with bright futures ahead of them in representative cricket.

Sure, the Hawks eventually won thanks to the canniness of senior players like Chaya Mughal, 34, and Chamani Seneviratna, the 42-year-old former Sri Lanka international, whose nerveless bowling clinched victory.

But they were pushed as close as it was possible to be by a Falcons side led by a 17-year-old captain, Kavisha Kumari, who entrusted key roles in the Super Over to players who were even younger.

Samaira Dharnidharka already has four T20 internationals to her name, despite only turning 14 last month.

The Winchester College schoolgirl turned a match that had seemed lost when she bowled opposition captain Mughal for 27, then picked up a direct hit run out shortly after.

The Dubai-born allrounder, who is one of the quickest bowlers already in the women’s game here, says she has always felt comfortable in the company of older players.

“My dad inspired me [to take up cricket when she was five],” Dharnidharka said. “He was a fan of cricket, and he told me I had a talent for it and I should pursue it.

“Opposite where we lived was a school that hosted cricket, and I went along. The coach told me I had talent, enough to play for India. Obviously, I was like ‘Whoa’, and thought it was amazing.

“[Since getting into the UAE set up] I’ve never felt intimidated because the senior players have always been welcoming and given me tips how to improve.”

When I think about UAE as a national team, I feel really happy about the future

Dharnidharka batted with another young prodigy for Falcons in the Super Over, which followed the scores being tied at 56 runs apiece in the regulation 10 overs.

Mahika Gaur, 15, is striking for two notable reasons. Firstly, her towering height, and second the passing resemblance of her left-arm pace bowling to her role model Mitchell Starc.

“I do try and intimidate and attack from the first ball as much as I can,” Gaur said. “I can see it sometimes, but not with senior players.”

The England-born seamer, whose two run outs in the final over forced the tie, first came to cricket as a nine year old, a year after moving to Dubai with her family from the UK.

“I was going to badminton, and we used to pass the ICC Academy on the way,” Gaur said.

“I was told about the women’s programme. I went along, and in the first session I was bowling to Chaya in the indoor nets. I loved it and stopped badminton straight away so I could play cricket instead.”

According to Mughal, the captain of the winning side, the emergence of so many young players means the future is bright for the game in the Emirates.

“When I think about UAE as a national team, I feel really happy about the future,” Mughal said.

“UAE has got talent. The only thing the girls have to do is to back themselves. And whenever they get opportunities like this, they have to deliver on it.

“Whether you get one over to bowl, or two balls to face, just do it. Girls are coming up who are not frightened or scared.

“It doesn’t matter if it is a senior player or a junior against them, they are just ready to do it. And when they play more matches, they get more confidence.

“The men have played many matches, and this was our first chance. It was a really exciting game, with a Super Over at the end.

"I am sure we will get more chance to play and showcase our talent on a larger scale like this.”