T20 Challenge good for UAE women’s cricket, says Nagraj
Sharjah to host all the matches of the Women’s T20 Challenge from November 4 to November 9.
It’s only fitting that the Sharjah Cricket Stadium — a venue that brought the gentleman’s game to the desert all those years ago — could now inspire a slew of girls in the UAE to take up the sport.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced on Sunday that Sharjah would host all the matches of the Women’s T20 Challenge from November 4 to November 9.
The Covid-19 pandemic forced the BCCI to bring the cash-rich IPL to the UAE shores. And now the women’s version of the IPL will also be staged in the UAE with Sharjah earning the right to host all four matches in the three-team tournament.
And the aspiring female cricketers in the UAE could not have hoped for bigger inspiration as iconic names like Mithali Raj, the highest run-scorer in women’s international cricket, and Jhulan Goswami, the leading wicket-taker in ODIs, will weave their magic at the historic Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
The UAE’s female players, of course, know what it takes to play international cricket, having played many events on the big stage.
But the T20 Challenge will certainly create a new buzz which could help the UAE take its women’s game to the next level.
Naturally, Roopa Nagraj, the UAE national team player, is brimming with excitement.
“Hosting such a popular sporting event, both the men’s and women’s tournaments, can only be considered as a very good thing for cricket in and across the UAE,” Nagraj, who played for India A in the past, told Khaleej Times. “Exposing some of the best (T20) sports people in the world to our resident and Emirati population will no doubt generate interest in the game at the grass roots, amateur and professional levels.”
Nagraj, a former teammate of Mithali Raj, then praised the Emirates Cricket Board for its efforts to make the sport popular among women.
“Women’s cricket has been in the UAE since 2007 and we have come a long way since then as we played our first World Cup qualifier in 2018 in the Netherlands. It was a great opportunity for all of us to represent the UAE at an international platform,” she said.
“I am leading the Emirates Cricket Board’s Women’s National Development Programme for girls which focuses on promoting cricket at grass root level and increasing participation among girls. ECB has been very encouraging and taken several efforts to promote girls cricket across various schools and academies here in the UAE under the guidance of the National Development Manager, Andrew Russell.
“There is an exclusive girls’ only programme which is organised by ECB every year where any girl in the UAE can come and train for free under the guidance of qualified professional coaches which I think is a great initiative by Emirate Cricket Board.
“Also, a big thanks to Nargish Khambatta, Principal of Gems Modern Academy, Dubai, for providing us with the facility and always encouraging and promoting girls to play the sport.”
Nagraj, who is now the ECB coordinator for the Women’s T20 Challenge, says the UAE girls also have been given a chance to play with the boys.
“In addition to the training programmes, girls now have the opportunity to take part in the ECB National Domestic League and play along with the boys to showcase their talent and train for the international games,” she said.
The future of women’s cricket in the UAE, according to Nagraj, looks very promising.
“Yes, I have been fortunate to play this game and represented India A and I have been playing for the UAE since 2016. There are definitely talented girls here in the UAE,” she said.
“We have been making progress in domestic circuit, with focused effort and continued support from players as well as the board. I am sure we will be able to see good progress in years to come.”
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