'It would be a really great to be selected': The Ajman brother and sister in a race to be first to play senior cricket for UAE

Sanchit Sharma, 19, represented the national team at the U19 World Cup earlier this year, while sister Khushi, 18, has played at age-group level

A brother and sister from Ajman are racing each other to be the first to play senior-level international cricket for the UAE.

Sanchit Sharma, 19, represented the national team with distinction at the U19 World Cup earlier this year, and is part of the senior team's extended training squad ahead of one-day internationals against Ireland next month.

Sister Khushi, 18, is also targeting selection for the women's national team, having also played at age-group level.

“Sanchit has played in a World Cup for UAE U19, but we have a tournament coming up, so let’s see if I can get to the UAE team before him,” Khushi said.

“It would be a really great feeling to be selected, and we are both really focused on that.”

If the Sharmas were to make the grade in senior cricket for the UAE, they would become the first brother-sister duo to do so.

Instances of family members playing for the UAE in cricket have been rare. National team batsman Rameez Shahzad is following in the footsteps of his father Shahzad Altaf by playing for the men's team.

Brothers Qais Farooq and Salman Farooq also played a number of times for the senior team between 2007 and 2015.

The fact that each of Sanchit and Khushi Sharma is in contention is remarkable given they were relatively late starters in the game.

Fast-bowler Sanchit took up cricket four years ago, aged 15, mainly as a way to improve his fitness.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - December 14, 2020: Cricket. Khushi Sharma and her brother Sanchit. Who are both aspiring to play for UAE. Monday, December 14th, 2020 in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“I was not physically fit at that time, and wasn’t that much interested in it,” Sanchit said.

“I was really overweight. We used to play tennis-ball cricket with our friends, but just for fun.”

His decision to take up the sport had a notable knock-on effect. Namely, that it prompted his sister to do so, too.

“It was because of him, I got the interest from watching him play,” said Khushi, who only started playing cricket two years ago.

“Then Sanchit’s coach [ex-UAE seam bowler Ali Asad Abbas] commended me, because of my height and appearance.

"He suggested I start playing, and thought I could be a fast bowler. Now I am an all-rounder, a middle-order batter and pace bowler.”

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - December 14, 2020: Cricket. Khushi Sharma and her brother Sanchit. Who are both aspiring to play for UAE. Monday, December 14th, 2020 in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Khushi models her all-round game on Shane Watson and Ellyse Perry, and tries to imitate Hardik Pandya’s late-over power hitting.

She was recently inducted as a scholar at the Rajasthan Royals Academy in Dubai, meaning she benefits from the expertise of the former Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer, who is the academy's head coach.

“It is a very different experience, as the training is very different to the Indian-style we are used to,” Khushi said.

“The environment is very different to the other academies. These are really great facilities, and Graeme has a nice, friendly attitude to the coaching.”

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - December 14, 2020: Cricket. Khushi Sharma and her brother Sanchit. Who are both aspiring to play for UAE. Monday, December 14th, 2020 in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The fact the Sharmas have an aptitude for the sport is perhaps no surprise.

Their father, Brij Mohan Sharma, played at state level for Haryana in India, before moving to the UAE in 1990 with his job as a mechanical engineer.

Now he dovetails running his business – Khushi Metal Trading ­– with ferrying his two children all over the country from their home in Ajman to pursue the sport.

Both of them are studying the same UK-based university course, remotely at present because of Covid-19, which means they can also focus on furthering themselves in UAE cricket.

“We are doing the same course, so it is easy for me – if I miss a class, she helps me, and the other way round,” Sanchit said.

“We do practice against each other. [If we were to play for UAE] it would be really amazing, especially for our mum and dad, as well as our family back in India, who have been supporting us all the time.”