Two members of the UAE women’s indoor side hope the team’s participation in the Indoor Cricket World Cup can inspire more girls to play the format.
Chaya Mughal and Roopa Nagraj are among the players in the 12-person squad as hosts UAE make their debut in the global tournament against England at InSportz Club on Saturday afternoon.
The indoor side is pretty much made up of players of the outdoor national team, who have won the last two Gulf Cups as well as finishing runners –up in the UAE Women’s International Cup in December.
While that has helped the women’s outdoor cricket grow in the UAE, the indoor version is majority played by men. But Mughal and Nagraj hopes the Indoor Cricket World Cup can be the starting point of boosting the numbers of female indoor cricketers.
“Most definitely it can,” said all-rounder Nagraj, who is a coach at the ICC Academy. “The fact that the Indoor World Cup is being played in Dubai is a big boost for the girls playing here. There are around 150 girls who are playing cricket in the UAE but the indoor game is relatively new.
“We have a lot of inter-academies that play the outdoor game. Hopefully this should be a good tournament and we put up a good show and impress a lot of girls to play the game one day.”
Mughal echoed her team-mate’s view and hopes there will be a lot of females in the stands during the games.
“Cricket in the UAE is rapidly increasing and I’m sure in the coming days, weeks or coming months, there will be girls who will be inspired to play the game especially in the indoor version,” said the fast-bowler.
“I want females to come out and support us and watch us play. It’s a big thing and we hope that when they watch us play, we can do them proud and hopefully they can follow in our footsteps and play indoor cricket.”
— UAE Cricket Official (@EmiratesCricket) September 5, 2017
The side has been stepping up their preparations in the last week and Nagraj says the format certainly poses its own challenges but are relishing the chance of playing indoor cricket.
“At first it was a bit of a challenge because we were playing outdoor cricket but we have picked up the game pretty well,” she said.
“It’s a very fast game and all of us are involved in the batting and bowling and fielding. It’s pretty quick compared to the outdoor game and with every ball that is bowled you have to be quick and be more alert.”
Saqlain Haider is looking forward to testing himself against international opposition again after admitting he was left hurt having been overlooked for last month’s Netherlands series.
The 30-year-old wicket-keeper/ batsman has been named in the 14-man squad for the Namibia tour later this month.
The UAE will face the African side in the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup in Windhoek next Saturday, as well as two 50-over matches in the World Cricket League on September 21 and 23.
It marks a return to the national team after Haider was not part of the travelling party which won the 50-over series 2-1 against the Dutch in July. Although he was pleased with the result, he was left frustra-ted he could play no part in Amsterdam and has now vowed to deliver his best against Namibia.
“I feel so happy to be back in the squad for this Namibia tour,” said Haider, who was part of the Asia Cup and 2015 World Cup squads.
“I felt very upset when I was not picked in the squad for the Netherlands tour but my family and friends give me a great support during that time. They pushed me to work more harder in training.”
The last time he represented the UAE, he scored a brilliant century as the team beat Papua New Guinea by nine wickets in their last I-Cup outing in April, in Abu Dhabi.
That feat was more remarkable considering he was studying for an MBA as well as working full-time.
It’s a role he has to continue to juggle with today, but he insists that’s no reason why he can’t replicate his success.
He said: “Scoring that century was one of the best moments of my life and it was tough because I was studying and working also, while also having to train. That gives me confidence and I’m really confident I can perform well on this tour.”
Head coach Dougie Brown has been impressed with Haider’s efforts and has hinted he could well be behind the stumps in the I-Cup match next Saturday.
“He’s been absolutely great,” said the 47-year-old. “He works very quietly and is very professional.
“The way he batted against PNG in that four-day game was just outstanding. It’s still early days but the thinking is that he might take the gloves in the four-day game and Shabbir takes the one-day games. If there’s any injury, both are capable batsmen. It’s exciting that there’s healthy competition for places.”
The ICC Academy (ICCA) will hold their first-ever trials for youngsters to earn a fully-funded scholarship this weekend as part of their plans in enhancing their grassroots programmes for budding cricketers in the UAE.
Boys aged between 12-18 will have a chance to impress on Saturday from 14:00 and those who catch the eye of the ICCA coaches will be rewarded with one of 12 paid scholarship into their Warriors Emerging Players Programme this season.
The Dubai-based venue is already an established cricketing centre and home of the UAE national team thanks to their state-of-the-art facilities. Their Babyshop Cricket Cubs and Warrior coaching programmes for youngsters have also been successful.
However, Will Kitchen, general manager at ICCA, says they want to build on this success by giving more opportunities for children including rewarding talented cricketers with a paid scholarship.
“The whole of the UAE is essentially privatised whether it’s schooling or healthcare, so barriers to a venue like ours can be pricey,” he said.
“We want to overcome that with fully-funded scholarships.
“That hopefully removes that barrier to costs to the venue and we’re looking for people who have that X-factor. Young players who show real point of difference whether it’s their desire or something we can see in terms of their physical attributes.
“We want to open our doors to those people who could be potentially be outstanding players who might not be able to come to the academy on the basis of costs. We are funding those ourselves. It’s a considerable investment for us but it will be a big benefit.”
While the scholarships form a key part in promoting grassroots cricket, so is coaching.
Qasim Ali, head of cricket development at ICCA, will oversee a strong coaching team and Kitchen believes it’s essential to offer the very best to children.
“My ambition now is to ensure that in grassroots cricket that we are not just a standalone cricket academy that coaches kids just to make revenue,” he said.
“Instead, we want to actually have some impact on the young people and lots of cricket who play the game here.
“There are three key differences that set us apart from other cricket academies in the UAE.
“The first point is the people – we have been forensic that we have the right type of people here so that young people can develop and have got staff that are fully professional and a real point of
“Second point is the quality of environment. There’s no other environment like this in the UAE. And then there’s the quality of programme with the purpose of our coaching equipping them for games.”
Ali, a former batsman for Lancashire, said it’s exciting times at the academy. “The players will have access to all the resources we have,” he said.
“The purpose of having all this – like a bowling machine, spin lane, using Australian wickets is to equip them with the skills.
“It’s like a kid going to a chocolate shop and pick whatever they want.”