Heena Hotchandani and Kavisha Kumari delivered when it really mattered as Desert Cubs Cricket Academy were crowned champions of the UAE National Women’s Tournament after a 63-run victory against GM Academy.
The bowlers were lethal with the ball as vice-captain Hotchandani (4-13) and Kumari (3-14) claimed seven wickets as GM Academy were all out for 94 in their reply to chasing 158 in the 30-over match.
That total was largely thanks to Chamani Seneviratne, who top-scored with 47 runs from 36 deliveries, while there were valuable contributions from Kumari (25) and skipper Oza (27), who elected to bat first after winning the toss.
For GM, their batswomen struggled at the crease with only Subha Srinivasan (21), Aysha Noushad (15) and Chaya Mughal (14) reaching double figures at Sharjah English School.
The result capped a remarkable campaign for Desert Cubs, who won all seven of their matches in the three-team competition, which also included G-Force. And UAE international Oza had nothing but praise for her team-mates.
“Winning any tournament is a great feeling, but winning all of our matches and staying unbeaten throughout is something very special, especially at such a big stage in women’s domestic cricket,” said Oza, who finished as the top run-scorer with 228.
“The thing that impressed me the most was that we played as a team and whoever got an opportunity to play did justice to their role in the team.”
The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) will now identify the best pool of players for a summer training camp ahead of the UAE’s 2018 World Cup qualifiers later this year.
Hoping their efforts are recognised are Priyanjali Jain (212) and Srinivasan (178), who impressed with the bat.
Srinivasan also showed why she claimed the MVP after the all-rounder topped the bowling charts with nine wickets, ahead of Kumari (8) and Hotchandani (7).
Humaira Tasneem, who skippered GM Academy, insists the tournament was a great learning curve. “There were three strong teams competing and every team played at least six matches which gave us good exposure and match practice,” she said.
“It was exciting for our team to qualify as we have a wide cross section of ages, and through each game our confidence grew and we have seen definite improvement.
“We were exposed to three different pitches and learnt how to adapt and make the best of the pitches.”
Emirati cricketers Obaid and Omar have spoken of their aspirations of their love for the game and wanting to follow in the footsteps of their father Mohammed Tauqir by representing the UAE national team one day.
Obaid, 13, and Omar, 8, have been enhancing their knowledge and skills at Desert Cubs Cricket Academy for six months now under the guidance of head coach Presley Polonowita, a former Sri Lankan cricketer himself.
Mohammed donned the national jersey for more than decade and captained the UAE team in the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. And having seen their father rub shoulders with the world’s elite on television, both Obaid and Omar want to create memories of their own.
“I love playing cricket,” said Obaid, a fast-bowling all-rounder.
“I’ve been playing since I was four years old. My grandfather took me to the park and we started playing. I started enjoying cricket because it was a family thing. Now I want to be like my dad, and captain the UAE team one day and make my breakthrough in the Under-19 teams.
“There is an athletics coach at Desert Cubs who helps with fitness which is a key part of cricket.”
His younger sibling, Omar, has too taken a lot of interest in cricket and while there’s still a lot of time for him to develop, at just eight-years-old, it’s a sport that he simply adores. “The best thing I like about cricket is hitting the ball. It’s something I love and it feels nice,” he said.
Mohammed has already seen signs of improvement from both his sons and is confident they will continue to excel.
“I’m really happy with the whole set up at Desert Cubs,” said the 45-year-old spinner, who is a national selector for the ECB.
“It has been very helpful in the shaping up of my children. They have improved their cricket and their overall fitness.
“I would love to see my children represent UAE. At the same time it has to be their commitment also. It will also be good if other Emirati youngsters also take up the game.”
Their sister Ayesha, who is pursuing athletics at Desert Cubs, also believes her brothers can reach their goal. “They can do it and have talent, if they work hard and concentrate on fitness.”
Polonowita hopes this can now be the start of more Emirati children taking up the sport.
“If we think of the future of cricket in the UAE, it has to be through locals. That’s why through Desert Cubs I’m trying to encourage UAE nationals to come here and get trained and represent their own country,” he said.
It’s not every day you see someone score a double century in T20 cricket, especially at the junior level, but that was certainly the case in Sharjah as Ronak Panoly left everyone in awe following his historic unbeaten 256-run knock.
The 14-year-old, representing GEMS Modern Academy, was in a world of own in the Under-14 MGS Vision Cup match as he put The Millennium School (TMS), Dubai, to the sword.
Panoly, whose quick-fire half-century helped GEMS to the 2016 National School League (NSL) final, let his bat do the talking once again by smashing an astonishing 30 sixes and 14 boundaries off just 72 deliveries.
GEMS eventually made 352-2, the tournament’s highest total before they wrapped up a 249-run victory. Unsurprisingly, Panoly was named Man of the Match and the opener said it was surreal to write himself into the tournament’s history books with their highest individual score.
“It’s a great feeling to score a 250, especially in T20 especially as I’ve not been scoring big recently,” he said. “Scoring a 200 in a 50-over is difficult but to do it in a T20 match is an unbelievable feeling.
“It is a real honour to write history in this tournament which I really enjoy playing.”
While it’s the highest individual score in the tournament, it’s unclear if it’s the record in junior cricket in the UAE or even a potential world record since tallies of domestic games in this country are not recorded.
Nevertheless, Panoly’s father, Sudesh, was thrilled with his son’s achievement after being called by GEMS coach Shafiq Ahmed.
“When I first heard the news, I thought it was the team score but then he said it was Ronak’s individual score and I thought he was joking,” said Panoly senior.
“He said it again and then it sunk in that Ronak reached the big milestone. I want to thank all the coaches who have helped him.”
One of his early coaches, Sudhakar Shetty of MGS, added: “Ronak’s innings was simply an epic one and beyond comparison. I strongly believe there’s more to come from him in the future.”