Dubai: Chaya Mughal had only one dream in her life, to play cricket and play it right. After several years on the field, the UAE skipper hung up her boots with her head held high. The 37-year-old feels women’s cricket is progressing in leaps and bounds and is confident the next generation of cricketers are going to be even more stronger.
“It’s never too late to do the right thing. You know, there’s always a timing set for doing the correct things. Women’s cricket in this part is developing at a great pace. So whatever has happened, has happened. We played well in that time as well. This is our third time in the global qualifiers, so that itself is an achievement. So it’s really, really positive and I’m confident that the next generation of cricketers that we are getting are going to be even more stronger,” an emotional UAE all-rounder told Gulf News after playing her last match in her career on Tuesday.
Mughal signed off on a successful note, guiding UAE to a 19-run win over Namibia in her 50th match as UAE skipper, ending a love affair that began when she was a kid on the streets of Jammu and Kashmir in India. Cricket-loving father and brother pushed her into the sport, then there was no stopping her, excepting a brief period when she moved to the UAE.
"I started playing cricket when I was a kid. Back then it was my dad and my brother who pushed me. They were cricket lovers. And honestly, If you’re in India, you have cricket in your blood, I was one of them. When I was a kid, I used to play on streets with boys, men’s and whoever possible. I just wanted to play cricket,” said Mughal, reminiscing her initial days. She slowly started playing at a professional level after graduating through the age-group categories.
Mughal, after moving to the UAE in 2009, was busy with her work until 2015 when she realised that she could play her favourite sport again, which rekindled her passion.
Dream come true
“It took me around five years to know that UAE had a women’s team as well. So in 2015, I debuted for UAE women’s team in the Gulf Cup. We barely had a handful of girls who could comprise a strong team. But as we progressed, cricket started developing in a new way and many girls started adopting this game as a passion or profession,” she added.
“Slowly the franchise cricket started happening and we got an opportunity to play in that. During the Asia Cup, I find a dream coming true. We played against elite teams like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, so that was amazing.”
In the past, cricketers from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka would fill the UAE team. But that trend has changed in the last few years and current UAE men’s and women’s teams have many home-grown talents, which augurs well for the future of the sport in the country.
Camaradrie in the dressing room
The dressing room has many teenagers and without any inhibition they doused Mughal with a bottle of water after playing her final game. It is a proof to the dressing room environment, and also sheds light on the camaraderie between the senior and the junior players. “That is the strength of our team, having a blend of youngsters and experienced players. It’s always a good combination. The younger lot wanted to go fast, score those boundaries, but there is also an experienced player in the middle who can calm them down. It’s a perfect blend and I was fortunate to lead this side for a long time,” she said with a pride in her voice. “I don’t have any regrets and I am really happy, truly satisfied with the results. I cherish every moment.”
Success at the top doesn’t come easily. It is achieved after years of hard work, dedication and proper planning. Mughal, as last piece of advise to the younger lot, talks about her motto that helped her tide over difficult circumstances.
“Consistency is the key to success. Even when you don’t feel like doing something, you get up from your bed and push yourself. I am of the belief that a hero is someone who knows how to stay on for one minute longer. It’s that one minute, when you feel like giving up and it is that one minute when you have to push yourself more. It’s that time which will take you across the line.”