x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Women's cricket could catch on in the UAE

UAE players hope to do well in the upcoming ACC Women's Championship to motivate youngsters, writes Amith Passela.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - December 14, 2012- UAE National Women's Cricket team wicket keeper Dipanki Borkar makes a catch during a practice session at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah City, Sharjah December 14, 2012. (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National)
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - December 14, 2012- UAE National Women's Cricket team wicket keeper Dipanki Borkar makes a catch during a practice session at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah City, Sharjah December 14, 2012. (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National)

Hopes are high that a good showing for the UAE at the ACC Women's Championship next month could encourage more participation in the sport in the country.

Dipanki Borcar, who has been part of the team since 2009, is optimistic about the team's chances at the tournament and the potential it could have for increasing awareness of the game.

"All the girls have been training hard to get good results next month in Thailand," she said. "If we can achieve our objectives it certainly would be good for the development of women's cricket in the UAE."

The 21-year-old wicketkeeper and top-order batswoman captained the UAE U19 at the Asian Cup in Singapore in 2010, where she made a career-best 49 not out in their win against the host nation.

But it has been difficult for participation levels to grow in the UAE.

The UAE does not have a domestic league or regular competitions for women cricketers, but they have been regular participants in the ACC tournaments.

Mohammed Hyder, the coach, said the problems facing the team were the same for all women cricketers. "It is either they can't get leave from office or studies. We will miss a few key players for next month's tournament as they have to sit the 12th year examinations."

Borcar, who was born and brought up in Dubai by Indian parents, backed that sentiment, saying: "When I first got into the sport I never knew I would play for so long. I don't know how long I can commit myself to playing cricket but will try to play as long as possible.

"Cricket among women in the UAE is not well known and not many girls play the game at a competitive level.

"It is very difficult to play a game of cricket in Dubai as we all come from different backgrounds, either studying or working, so there is very little time to dedicate to play competitive games."

Borcar watched her younger brother, Raghavan, play cricket and picked it up from him.

"I watched a lot of cricket so I had a good idea of the game," she said. "It was the year of the World Cup [2007] and the cricket fever was going on. Everyone around me was playing and I too decided to join the school team [Our Own English High School, Dubai].

"I had been into athletics at school and I was in good shape for any game. I still keep myself fit by running, cycling, roller blading and a daily dose of exercise."

According to Borcar, the UAE women's team trains three hours twice a week to prepare for tournaments. "When it gets closer we train for about four to five days a week," she added.

Aysha Naushad Khan played under Borcar when she was just 11. She has big ambitions, according to her father Naushad Khan.

"If she has the potential to play at a higher level we certainly would encourage her to pursue training under a more professional environment, perhaps with an idea to play for the Indian team," he said.

Aysha, now 13, is versatile and plays badminton during the weekdays at the Indian Association in Ras Al Khaimah and travels to Sharjah at the weekends for cricket training. Hyder said: "The problems of gathering the players will continue to exist but there is also no dearth on the numbers attending the training. As long as we have a squad and those with the hunger to play, women's cricket will continue to exist."

The UAE were bowled out for just nine runs during their international debut against Bangladesh in the ACC Women's tournament in Malaysia in 2007, but they have come a long way since then.

"It is only six years since women's cricket was established and we have done much, much better in the tournaments that followed," Hyder said. "We are hopeful it can only get better over a period of time."

apassela@thenational.ae

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