She is the fifth-youngest woman cricketer to make an international debut. She was just 11 years and 325 days old when she played her first T20I. From being just a youngster in the team to being a vital cog in the final that helped her team advance to the ICC Women’s World T20 Global Qualifiers, the right-arm seamer has come a long way.
In an exclusive chat with Female Cricket, UAE’s Samaira Dharnidharka talks about her family’s support in realizing her dream of playing cricket at the international level, her debut and many more.
At what age did you start playing cricket? When and how did you first play cricket?
My father inspired me to take up the sport at the age of five. I lived opposite a school where there were cricket classes and I went there just to give it a shot. It so happened that the coach there and of course my father, saw some spark in me and I was encouraged to pursue cricket seriously.
Do you have any siblings? Do they play cricket as well?
I have two siblings, an older sister and my twin sister who played cricket as well. We (me and my twin sister) both started playing together however she stopped playing after a while later as she had other interests.
How important has been the role of your family because we know that they supported your decision of playing in the ICC Women’s T20 Asia Qualifier over your 10th standard study preparations?
As I study in a British curriculum school, I don’t have much pressure in grade 10 as we have our boards in grade 11. My school has been immensely supportive, taking the time to ensure I have caught up with whatever was done while I was away.
As for my family, I have no words to describe what they have done for me. They have truly been my pillar of strength. My parents have been there with me right through my ups and downs. While my mother offered me emotional support, my father provided me with cricketing tips. Both my sisters have been helpful in every possible way that they could, be it with managing my studies or just taking me out to make me feel relaxed.
You are the 5th youngest woman cricketer globally and the youngest woman cricketer in UAE to make an international debut at the age of just 11 years and 325 days. Can you tell us about your first T20I experience?
When I was named in the UAE squad, at that time, I didn’t realize what a big feat I had achieved. For me, it was just cricket, which is my passion that I was going to play. I remember clearly, being handed my debut cap by Chamani Seneviratne. It was truly a proud moment! I made my debut against Thailand on January 18, 2019. My debut game will always remain fresh in my memory. It was a great learning experience.
You made your international debut at an age when kids are busy having fun, playing with their toys. How was the feeling to represent your country at such a tender age?
My definition of fun ever since I was a kid, was playing cricket. Playing cricket included knocking my bat at home even when my sisters were studying. I never felt like I was missing out because I had found something I really loved doing.
Do you miss the kind of enjoyment that your friends have back in school since you have been playing cricket for your country from the age of 11?
Not really, playing for the UAE is what most kids are not able to do and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to do so. I am thoroughly enjoying it!
Can you share your experience of playing the ICC Women’s World T20 Qualifier, which your team UAE won?
The experience was truly surreal. Playing at my home ground was special, in addition to competing with some of the best teams (in Asia). We went into the tournament with the aim of winning and I am so glad to see that we could achieve that. I did my best to play to my highest potential and live up to my team’s expectations. I am really happy to see my hard work being paid off! Hoping to carry the momentum for the Global Qualifier too!
You registered your best T20I figures of 4-5 against Nepal in the final. How did your family and friends react with this performance?
Everyone I met after the match was thrilled with the victory, especially considering that this was our ticket to the Global Qualifier. I felt special, having an important role to play in my team’s victory and everybody made sure to make me feel like a true star.
How did you celebrate UAE’s advancement to the ICC Women’s World T20 Global Qualifiers?
We had a loud dressing room after registering our win. We all sang songs, and the dressing room truly had an electrifying vibe! We are all going to go for a celebratory lunch soon.
How is the team environment, given that there is a good mix of young talents and senior players in the side?
It is truly important to have a mix of juniors and seniors in the team and I would say that really helps us as a team. We learn a lot from the seniors and the support they provide is insightful.
Who do you talk to and share a lot in the group?
We are all mostly at school and in the same age bracket, so we all share our life updates, talk about upcoming games and discuss the live matches.
You must have seen Chamani Seneviratne playing in your formative years. How was it to share the dressing room with her?
Chamani has got a lot of experience as she has captained Sri Lanka in the past. Her guidance and support to the youngsters is immense. It’s great having someone like her in the dressing room. It truly is an experience in itself.
Who was your role model growing up? Has it changed now?
I don’t think my role models could ever change. It is Jhulan Goswami and Natalie Sciver.
What are your future plans with academics?
I have not decided for sure yet however, I have an inclination towards STEM subjects and am currently considering a career in the medical field.
What are your future plans with cricket?
I definitely want to keep playing and reach newer and higher heights. My first and foremost aim is to do my very best for the UAE at the Global Qualifiers and hope to qualify for the T20 World Cup that will be played in South Africa in 2023. My end goal is to represent India, my home country.
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I am a former cricketer having represented Mumbai University at All India University level. I was a part of MCA probables for the U-19 and U-23 age group. I have been an avid cricket writer for the last five years. Currently I am pursuing my Ph.D from IIT Bombay.