Dubai: For an athlete, representing a nation in any sport swells the heart with pride. But imagine earning an opportunity to debut for two different countries. And that too by the age of just 17.
Mahika Gaur was just 12 years old when she made her first international debut for the UAE national women’s cricket team and now, five years later, she made it a double after earning a call up for the England women’s squad. “It’s a great feeling,” said the crafty 6.2ft left-arm seamer. “When I got the call up, I wasn’t expecting it [to be part of the England squad] at all. I’m really buzzing and super excited. It’s good when you are young because there’s no pressure — like the conversations I’ve had with the coaches and captain is that I just bowl and do what I’m good at,” added Gaur, who played her first match against Sri Lanka last week and claimed her first international wicket for England.
Born in Reading, England, in 2006, Mahika’s parents shifted to Dubai when she was just eight years old, where she got enrolled to the ICC Academy and got an opportunity to train with the UAE senior team. “I got into cricket when I was around seven or eight. It was just before we moved to Dubai. I just would play in the garden with my dad because he used to play in college.
“When we came to Dubai, I’d actually go and play badminton across the ICC Academy. But crossing the ICC Academy every time we went, I realised that I just wanted to play cricket and I didn’t want to pay badminton,” said Gaur, while describing how she was also spurred on by the game after watching an Indian Premier League (IPL) match live in Jaipur. “[The inspiration] was from just watching the sport on the TV. Ever since I started playing in the garden, I just loved it. When I was younger, I went to go see an IPL match, and just seeing the atmosphere there, seeing the crowd, like how passionate everyone was about it. It was sort of contagious,” said Gaur. Mahika played a total of 19 matches for UAE, where she picked up nine wickets.
“The UAE has played quite a big role because from [ages] eight to sixteen years, I was playing there. So, most of my coaching was done over there and I also got the experience of playing in international matches. Even with my school, the coaches with different academies, it has always been great and they definitely played a big role in shaping my career as a cricketer and to a large extent my character too,” said Gaur, who was spotted by the English domestic side Thunder during a talent scout that was held at Dubai Expo 2020. During her education in Dubai, she also secured a sports scholarship in Lancashire in UK and a chance to join Manchester Originals in the Hundred.
Thankful to parents
Asked about who she would like to credit her success to, Gaur said: “It would be my parents and all the coaches that have helped me. I’d say obviously, there’s still a long way to go, but what my parents used to do for me, like waking up at like 5am to take me to matches and take me to training, and never once complaining, always just coming back from work and taking me straight to training.
"So I think obviously they’ve played a big part and always just supported me. When I wanted to move to the UK, they knew it would be the best move for my cricket, and even though it was very hard for them, they sort of knew that it was what’s best for me and I’m grateful for that.
When asked about her future goals, Gaur said she was content for now and want to take it as it comes. “I haven’t really thought too far ahead right now, I’m just sort of enjoying it, because the stuff that is happening are not in my control. I’m just sort of letting it happen and just enjoying it as it comes. I think obviously playing for England has always been a goal. And now that it’s started to happen, I just want to enjoy and don’t really want to think too far ahead. I want to keep getting better and be the best cricketer I can be.”