Exclusive: Meet the UAE cricketer who has eclipsed global stars

Esha Oza recently became the fastest player to reach 1,000 T20 runs in women's international cricket



Esha Oza celebrates after scoring a century against Qatar in the qualifying tournament for this year's Asia Cup. (Malaysia Cricket Association Twitter)
Esha Oza celebrates after scoring a century against Qatar in the qualifying tournament for this year's Asia Cup. (Malaysia Cricket Association Twitter)
by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Tue 12 Jul 2022, 11:45 PM

When Esha Oza played street cricket with her cousins during summer vacations in Mumbai, few could have predicted that the young girl, whose first love was football, would go on to write her name in the history books.

The 23-year-old UAE batter became the fastest player to reach 1,000 runs in T20 internationals last month, eclipsing stalwarts like Charlotte Edwards, Sarah Taylor, Stafanie Taylor, Meghann Lanning, Bethany Mooney and Mithali Raj, the Indian legend who recently retired from the international game as the highest run-scorer in the history of women’s cricket.

Oza reached the landmark when she hit a majestic 115 off 67 balls against Qatar in the Asian Cricket Council Women’s T20 Championship in Malaysia where she played a key role in helping UAE qualify for this year’s Asia Cup.

A big admirer of MS Dhoni’s finishing ability, Oza, during an interview with Khaleej Times, revealed how boys teams have helped women’s cricket improve in the UAE.

Q. It’s a remarkable achievement for a player from an associate country like UAE to become the fastest to 1,000 international runs...

Yes, I am very happy. You know, I also became the first women’s player from an associate team to score 1,000 international T20 runs.

Q. Women’s cricket in the UAE has made huge progress in a short period. The Under 19 team have qualified for the T20 World Cup. The senior team will now play the Asia Cup this year. And you also have a chance to qualify for the senior T20 World Cup next year. What’s the secret to this amazing success?

I think we have to thank all the parents who back their girls to go and play. They back everyone during the weekends in training. They push the girls to do better. Of course, the ECB (Emirates Cricket Board) have played a major role. They have started to unearth a lot of talent in women’s cricket. In the past two years, we have played quite a lot of games with boys, and many international games as well. The coaches, the academies where a lot of girls go, they also deserve a lot of credit.

Esha Oza's parents travelled to Malaysia to support her during the Asian Cricket Council Women's T20 Championship. (Supplied photo)
Esha Oza's parents travelled to Malaysia to support her during the Asian Cricket Council Women's T20 Championship. (Supplied photo)

Q. It’s interesting that the UAE under 19 girls and the senior women’s team play a lot of practice matches against the boys. That must have really helped raise the standards...

We play against under 15 and under 17 boys. Obviously, the level of boys is very different compared to where women’s cricket is. So we know that we might not do too well, we might end up losing the games badly, but I think that pushed us to do much better. So when we go out to play against women’s teams, it looks much easier and we are more in control of the game.

Q. As for your own game, what is that factor that has really helped you improve?

I played a couple of years of domestic cricket in Mumbai. That helped me improve my game a lot.

Q. But how did you get to play in Indian domestic cricket?

In 2019 I moved to India for cricket. When I went there we had selection matches going on. I was there for the under 23 selection games and in one of the matches, I got a 101 not out and three wickets as well. So that’s how I got into the Mumbai side as well. I played two tournaments for the senior Mumbai team in T20s and 50 overs games and one tournament for the under 23 team. Those matches helped my cricket because I got to play with and against a lot of India international players and faced international bowlers like Pooja Vastrakar and Mansi Joshi. We had a game against the Railways, so I got to see how Mithali Raj goes on about her game.

Q. Now you will be playing against these Indian players in the Asia Cup...

I am really excited, I am hoping I can do well. I want to be one of the key players for the UAE at the Asia Cup and I want to show the other teams that, yes the UAE too can play at a level that they are playing at.

Q. You also have the ICC Global Qualifiers for the 2023 T20 World Cup in September...

Yes, we have to compete with the USA, PNG, Ireland, Scotland, Bangladesh and Thailand. Only two countries will qualify for the World Cup. The way Ireland and Bangladesh are playing at the moment, this will be a tough fight. But we are dreaming of qualifying for the World Cup, the Under 19 girls have done it. We are hoping that the senior side can do the same.


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