UAE's Esha Oza relishing the prospect of England challenge this summer

Denzil Pinto 24/05/2018
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England bound: Esha Oza

UAE’s Esha Oza says she’s excited that she will be testing herself against England’s best players after being called up to the ICC’s Global Development Squad later this year.

The 19-year-old all-rounder was recommended to the sport’s governing body by the Emirates Cricket Board following a superb domestic campaign and will join 12 other players from Ireland, the Netherlands, PNG, Uganda and Scotland for the 15-21 July tour.

Oza will travel to England on the back of an impressive season where the Desert Cubs player finished as the joint highest wicket-taker (eight) and run-scorer (337) in the ECB Women’s National League. She also hit a maiden century in the competition.

During the UK trip, which follows the Women’s World T20 Qualifier in the Netherlands, the ICC squad will get the exposure of playing England’s Super League sides.

“I was a bit surprised but I’m really excited as this is the first time the ICC development squad is happening,” said Oza. “I will be playing cricket with different players from different countries, so it’s all very exciting for me.”

Having studied in England for two years in 2003, Oza never got the chance to play cricket but is looking forward to enhancing her skills and knowledge at the ‘home of cricket’.

“Although I lived in England before when I was younger, this will be the first time that I’ll be playing cricket,” she added. “It’s very exciting because England is a big cricketing nation and it is the home of cricket so it’s a great chance for me to develop as a player.”

The initiative, which is a partnership between the ICC and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), hopes it can provide exposure to teams outside the top-eight ranked sides who feature in the ICC Women’s Championship in their bid to make the World Twenty20Is more competitive in the coming years.

And Oza believes it’s a great step that will only boost women’s cricket. “It’s a great move as we will be playing against strong English sides will be very beneficial,” she added. “As a player from an Associate nation, we don’t get to play too many matches and this is real opportunity to play and train with them. We will learn a lot of new things on how to play the game and get a chance to improve.”

Despite being the only UAE player to be selected, Oza is hopeful more of her international team-mates can follow in her footsteps.

“This should be the beginning. If they have this every year, perhaps there will be more. Netherlands have two players and hopefully more UAE players can be given a chance over time.”

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UAE's Natasha Michael 'heartbroken' to miss out on World Twenty20 Qualifier due to injury

Denzil Pinto 19/05/2018
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Injured: Natasha Michael

Natasha Michael says it’s ‘heartbreaking’ that she will not be able to play a part in the UAE’s attempts to qualify for the 2018 Women’s World Twenty20 due to a back injury.

Michael, 23, was left out of the 14-person squad on Thursday that will compete in the Global Qualifier tournament in Netherlands in July with the all-rounder deciding not to risk inflicting more pain on a long-term injury.

She first suffered the injury on her back during the UAE’s participation in the international Women’s Tournament back in December 2016 and although she was part of the squad in November’s Asia Qualifiers that booked their place in July’s tournament, the struggles continued with Michael playing her last game in December.

While she has not given herself a timeframe on her return, Michael insists it was a difficult decision to temporarily stop playing cricket.

“The injury happened during the UAE international Women’s Cup and my spikes got caught in the ground and I fell on the floor and it started off from there,” said Michael, who became the first-ever UAE captain aged 14 in 2007.

“It has been a recurring thing and has been coming on and off. In Thailand, it was fine but there was slight pain here and there. I started strengthening and did all kinds of physio but I’m just not 100 per cent. If I keep playing, it’s going to keep on coming back so I had to take a difficult decision on just being fully fit. It could be a lifetime thing if I don’t look after it now.”

She added: “It’s heartbreaking. It’s the biggest tournament that UAE will get for a while unless the girls prove everyone wrong and do well. This is one benchmark that we have been dreaming of for the past 10 years. It is a bit disheartening but I’m happy with the squad that is going and hopefully they can go on in the next stage.

“I don’t think it’s fair to be in the squad even though I have a history in the team. Someone who is fit, deserves to be there. Once I’m fully fit, I will come back to it.”

The UAE have been drawn alongside Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea and Netherlands in the eight-team tournament in July with two qualifying spots available for the showpiece event in West Indies in November.

With such an important event, Michael hopes the Emirates Cricket Board will appoint a physio for the tournament that can assist the players.

“Unfortunately we don’t have a physio provided and that’s another problem,” she said. “I hope the girls get a physio this time as it’s a very big tournament and that is one issue that needs to be addressed.”

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UAE coach Murali Sockalingam says qualifying for Women's World T20 is only target that have

Denzil Pinto 18/05/2018
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Next stop: Netherlands. The UAE will be captained by Humaira Tasneem (c)

UAE head coach Murali Sockalingam insists reaching the Women’s World Twenty20 is the only target they have in mind after the squad was announced for the qualifying tournament later this year.

The Emirates Cricket Board revealed the 14-person squad on Thursday for the World T20 Qualifier in Netherlands that will be held between July 3 to 14.

Humaira Tasneem will captain the side with former Sri Lankan international Chamani Seneviratne among four new faces called up that did not feature at the Asian Qualifiers in November.

The UAE have a tough task of claiming the two automatic spots for the showpiece event in West Indies with Bangladesh, Ireland, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, Thailand and Uganda also competing.

However, Sockalingam believes there is enough balance in the squad that can cause problems for the opposition.

“UAE cricket continues to grow and the players have also worked very hard on their performances by playing a lot of domestic cricket,” he said, whose side has been drawn alongside Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea and Netherlands.

“Most of the players have started playing with the boys team as well, so they are getting the experience which is important.

“I’m happy with the squad we have. There is a blend of experience and youth with strong quality and we have a couple of weeks to fine tune our skills. Hopefully we can achieve what we want to achieve and that is to qualify for the World Cup. Only two teams qualify and that is what our target should be.”

The squad is bolstered with the addition of Seneviratne. The 39-year-old brings an array of experience having played one Test, 80 ODIs and 32 T20Is with her last appearance coming in November 2013.

She now works as a coach at Abu Dhabi Cricket and Sockalingam insists having Seneviratne is a big boost for UAE cricket.

“She brings big time experience to the team,” he said. “She has played a Test, ODIs and T20s and brings a lot of knowledge that is very important for us. The youngsters are learning a lot from her. It’s fantastic to have her in the squad and great addition to us.”

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