Saying the future looks bright for UAE women’s cricket feels like it is underselling the point given that a 14-year-old schoolgirl bowled them to the next phase of T20 World Cup qualifying.
Samaira Dharnidharka, who was granted time off from her Year 10 studies at Gems Winchester to play, took four wickets for five runs in a sparkling spell at the ICC Academy.
It set the seal on a dominant 48-run win for the national team over Nepal, as they clinched a clean-sweep in the Women’s T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier.
Their rousing success means they will advance to the global Qualifier, to be played next year. If they finish in the top two places in that eight-team competition, they will play at the 2023 T20 World Cup in South Africa.
Their success was built on collective effort, not least in the form of some fine young talent.
And, when the pressure was on in the decider against Nepal, it was a 14-year-old bowler who settled the nerves with a four-wicket salvo.
“I just took it as a normal game, and — as a 14-year-old — you want to create a long-lasting impression,” Dharnidharka said.
“My aim was to hit the deck and keep bowling dots. If I did that, we knew wickets would come, so I wanted to keep building pressure.
“I have had to miss school, but they are really proud of me.”
Rarely for a match involving Nepal in the UAE, the home team had the noisier support.
Indeed the cheer squad which followed the UAE’s matches over the past week far exceeded anything the men’s team have had in the past.
It included choreographed songs, and the accompaniment of a portable speaker. They sung “That’s the way, Maahi ve,” when Mahika Gaur, the exceptional 15-year-old left-armer, was bowling.
There were placards with various messages, including “Khushi strikes again” whenever she took a wicket.
“It is awesome,” Dharnidharka said of the support. “It feels great to have such a lot of support. You get extra motivation and it creates pressure on the other team.”
For all the excellence of the young players during the course of the tournament, UAE’s success was overseen by the assured figure of Chamani Seneviratna.
The 43-year-old all-rounder, who played six World Cups for Sri Lanka in the past before moving to Sharjah, saved her best for the final match.
She earned the player of the match award against Nepal after her 36-ball 52 took UAE to 127 for five. She then took two for six with the ball as Nepal were bowled out for 79.
“We have talented players but I think we need to raise our standard when we are going to the global Qualifier,” Seneviratna said.
“We have to work towards that, and keep enjoying ourselves. We have good, talented players and I think we have a positive future to look forward to.
“Playing with these youngsters, I just tell them to settle, to stay at the wicket, and once they are settled that’s when they can play a long innings.
“They can take advantage of when they are playing with me, and share their ideas with me, and that makes things easier.”
Immediately after sealing victory, the team received a Zoom call from Robin Singh, the UAE head coach who was on tour with the men’s side in Namibia.
“We had a plan and, thanks to God, we achieved that goal,” Najeeb Amar, Singh’s assistant, who was in charge of the women’s side, said.
“The best of it was it was completely a team effort. They listened well to whatever the plans were and implemented them in the field.
“The highlight today was Samaira. We kept her for this game, and we knew what she could do. She delivered it, and I am really proud of her.”
Updated: November 28th 2021, 12:40 PM