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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

All in the family for England's Indoor Cricket World Cup captains - literally

Anish Patel leads the men's team, while sister Niki is the women's team captain. That is not all: mother Neeta manages U22 side and father Rakesh is team doctor.

Anish Patel was inspired to take up indoor cricket by his sister, Niki. Antonie Robertson / The National
Anish Patel was inspired to take up indoor cricket by his sister, Niki. Antonie Robertson / The National

Mithali Raj, the India captain, famously baulked when asked who was her favourite male cricketer ahead of the Women’s World Cup earlier this year.

“Do you ask the same question to a male cricketer? Do you ask them who their favourite female cricketer is?” she shot back at her inquisitor.

Asking it of the England captain at the Indoor Cricket World Cup is more or less rhetorical. Anish Patel might not be playing the indoor format at all if it was not for a woman.

When UAE beat England

More accurately, she was a girl at the time. He was inspired to take up the game when he saw his little sister Niki playing.

“Weirdly, it was watching my sister play, even though she is four years younger than me,” Anish said of how he first attracted to the indoor game.

“I went to watch her in the World Cup in 2007 in Bristol, England. She was playing, in the Under 19 competition, and I was hooked straight away.

“I had always played cricket, but never indoors, and it was definitely a game I wanted to be involved in.”

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Ten years on, Anish runs the leading sports centre for indoor cricket in the UK, in Birmingham, while he and his sister are piloting England’s respective pursuits of semi-final places at the World Cup in Dubai.

Niki is captain of the women’s team, mother Neeta is coach and manager of England’s Under 22 women’s side, while father Rakesh, a general practitioner by day, is the team doctor.

There is one more Patel in the England men’s senior team, too, the off-spinner Nil. Although he is unrelated to the family, he is set to be the best man at captain Anish’s wedding next year.

“We have a lot of cricket blood floating around here,” said Neeta, who is also a distant cousin of the former New Zealand spinner Dipak Patel.

Despite being just 23, Niki is playing at her fifth World Cup, with the first two of that sequence being in the U19 category.

She is happy at the way the format has developed in the decade since she was introduced to it at the invitation of a friend.

“Now, in most of the teams you won’t find too many outdoor players,” Niki said. “Those who are learn the tactics very quickly.

“It is really nice to see when an outdoor player joins at the start of the season, and by the end they are playing the strategic shots, the down and ups.”

The siblings do play in the same mixed cricket teams occasionally, too. When they do, the England women’s team captain says she is happy to defer to her brother.

“He has always been a natural leader, and he is my older brother, so I let him get on with it,” she said. “I think it runs in the family.”

Indoor Cricket World Cup Dubai 2017

Venue Insportz, Dubai; Admission Free

Fixtures - Open Men 2pm: India v New Zealand, Malaysia v UAE, Singapore v South Africa, Sri Lanka v England; 8pm: Australia v Singapore, India v Sri Lanka, England v Malaysia, New Zealand v South Africa

Fixtures - Open Women Noon: New Zealand v England, UAE v Australia; 6pm: England v South Africa, New Zealand v Australia