When the UAE national players line up in the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) Women’s Tournament on Saturday, they will find themselves in an unfamiliar position of facing their team-mates in a competitive environment.
The pool of 42 players, as well as 11 newcomers, who were chosen in the Talent Hunt, will have to put their friendships aside and focus on getting the better of their opposition in a T20 competition that will test them against the nation’s best.
Split into four academies – GM, ICC, Sharjah and Desert Cubs – each side will play on a home and away basis over the next six weeks.
It’s part of the ECB’s drive in developing the women’s game following the national team’s success in retaining the Gulf Cup in December, and giving them as much match practice as possible for future international championships.
“It’s a big opportunity for us and it will be nice to play against the other teams. It would be a bit awkward as we know each other so well but it’s a good initiative,” said captain Humaira Tasneem.
“We can learn from our mistakes and will help us when we play against the international tournaments. It’s quite disappointing we’ve not played in much tournaments before, but we can now show off our skills and get a lot of time on the field.”
The 20-year-old American University of Sharjah student, who lines up for Sharjah Cricket Academy, knows she might not have made a huge impact if she hadn’t met current coach Mohammed Hyder.
Seven years ago, she was doing the damage with her pace bowling. But after Hyder realised her potential, Tasneem became a spinner and the decision paid dividends, taking five wickets in Qatar.
“At first, when I started playing cricket, I didn’t know much about the sport,” she said.
“I didn’t know how to hold a bat or anything. After being coached by Hyder, I slowly learnt new things.
“He said to keep bowling at the wicket, and every time I was bowling 50 times in the same area.
“He kept telling me to bowl at a good length, and then told me how to put spin on the ball. I owe a lot to him because I got a lot of confidence by working with him.”
Surprisingly, despite being in her early 20s, Tasneem is considered one of the older players in the team.
Another player who is looking to make a big impact is 12-year-old batswoman Kavisha Kumari.
The Arab Unity School student was part of the title-winning squad in Qatar and has high hopes for the future.
“It really is a privilege to play for the UAE and I really would like to play cricket full-time. I will do my best in all the tournaments that I play in because I really enjoy it,” she said.
Another player to feature is the country’s first ever women’s captain – Natasha Michael.
Michael was just 13 when she led the team in the Asian Cricket Council tournament in Malaysia in 2007. After leaving in 2010 to study in India, where she also played State cricket, she returned to the UAE.
With most of her former team-mates no longer in the set-up, she has made new friends and insists this tournament will only make those relations stronger.
“When I came back, I couldn’t believe the changes that had taken place in the team as there are a lot of new faces and it’s been a big jump,” she said. “In my time here, we’ve built trust in each other and have clicked as a team and know each other really well.
She added: “To be named captain at such a young age is something I’m proud of. It was challenging but my experience of playing in India taught me you really need to work hard to get to where you want to go. It wouldn’t come to you on a plate. This tournament will be no different to any other.”
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