National team will get their first taste of indoor cricket when action gets under way in Dubai later this month
UAE women's team relishing chance to play at indoor cricket World Cup to 'show what we are made of'
For the rookie players of the UAE women’s team, who are getting ready for their debut at the indoor cricket World Cup, it is debatable which prospect is more daunting: facing the world’s best players with experience of the format that amounts to basically nil.
Or tackling a frenetic version of the game in which most fielders are barely eight yards from the bat, and has rules governing collisions and blood injury replacements.
Indoor cricket is far removed from cucumber sandwiches on the village green.
And the UAE’s players will be beginning from a standing start when they face the likes of eight-time world champions Australia when the competition begins at Insportz, Dubai, later this month.
So are they filled with trepidation? Hardly.
“It is a very big learning experience,” said Natasha Cherriath, the UAE captain.
“All we can become is stronger from it. Now we will know the standard we need to come up to to make it to a 50-over World Cup, for example.
“It is a very big stage for us to show what we are made of as a team. We want to say to everyone, ‘Hey, the UAE women’s team exists, we are really good at what we do, we just need that extra push to go places’.”
Cherriath was never likely to be fazed by what lies ahead. She has faced bigger challenges before, after all.
Such as when she first captained a novice women’s team aged only 12.
It is over 10 years since the UAE women – or, more accurately, girls as they were then – made their first steps in international cricket in the outdoor game.
This year, the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) was given the chance to enter a team into an indoor World Cup being hosted on their own doorstep.
When they put the idea to a set of players only used to playing outside, they jumped at the chance.
It will be tough. Pitted in a group with established players from New Zealand, South Africa, England, and all conquering Australia, expectations should be modest.
“We didn’t even know an indoor cricket World Cup existed until this year,” Cherriath said.
“The ECB told us we could play in a World Cup, as UAE were hosting, then we thought, ‘Oh, this is serious stuff’.
“We went on YouTube, checked out some videos, and saw the level at which these players play. It is a very serious game.
“I think at that point, all we wanted to do was take part. But our basics are strong.”
The women’s side have been working closely with their male compatriots, who are also playing in the World Cup.
All the male players are drawn from the popular indoor cricket leagues that are played in Dubai. As such, they have been able to pass on tips ranging from the benefits of the “bump shot” – a soft, tap into the side netting, bouncing over the close fielders’ heads – to the value of knee pads.
Protective equipment when batting in indoor cricket is minimal, but it is wise to wear knee protection when fielding.
Sliding on the hard court to affect a run out can be an involuntary action for players trained to do just that on grass fields outside.
Fielding in general indoors can be precarious, which is part of the reason there are blood replacement guidelines in the laws.
“A player suffering a blood-related injury must leave the court for further treatment unless the bleeding can be contained within a maximum of two minutes,” the law reads.
According to Humaira Tasneem, a UAE spin bowler, the fact the players will put their bodies on the line for the cause is a given.
“We get hard catches in outdoor, too,” Tasneem, 22, said. “You get hurt, it’s fine. You fall, you get back up, you play again – that’s how it works.
“That is what we are thinking. We want to get in their faces and kind of annoy them. We have seen that happen a lot in the online videos we have been watching.”
The team’s main focus for this year is a tournament in Thailand in November which is a pre-qualifier for the next women’s World Cup.
Shah Hussain, the coach, is hoping his side can learn some tricks from their experienced indoor opponents to implement in Thailand.
“It’s our first time, so the other teams can be scared about us, not the other way round,” Hussain said.
“We are beginners. We can take something from here to implement outdoors. This game is new to us and we can learn a lot from it.”