Interview: Journey from Jammu and Kashmir to Leading UAE’s National Team – Chaya Mughal

This dashing all-rounder’s journey from Jammu and Kashmir to leading the UAE women’s cricket team is unequivocally incredible. Juggling between teaching and captaining her side at the international level, she is indeed an inspiration to many.

In an exclusive chat with Female Cricket, Chaya Mughal, talks about her early cricketing days in India, shifting to the UAE for better opportunities, steering her side to the ICC Women’s World T20 Global Qualifiers, and many more.

 

Female Cricket interviews Chaya Mughal
Female Cricket interviews Chaya Mughal

 

Excerpts.

Tell us about your early days in cricket? Who got you introduced to the sport first?

As a kid, I remember clutching a cricket bat and waiting for my brother to bowl. Since I had a brother, cricket was the only game that I could play with him. I wanted to hit the ball as soon as I got my hands on a bat. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity by my school to form a school cricket team, which played a pivotal part in encouraging me to take up cricket as a serious profession.

Who was your role model growing up? Has it changed now?

Jonty Rhodes has always been my role model. He is one of the greatest and the finest fielders I have ever seen.

Prior to playing for UAE, you represented Jammu & Kashmir at the domestic level. Tell us about your stint with J&K. How did you get into the UAE Cricket Team?

Coming from Jammu and Kashmir, it was clear that the resources and facilities were limited. There were few opportunities back then, so finding a platform or stage where I could prove myself as a cricketer was difficult. It was a serious business for me, but it was only a hobby for others.

When I arrived in Dubai in 2009, I began working as a teacher. I had no idea there was a UAE women’s cricket squad back then. Fortunately, in 2016, one of my friends introduced me to the then-coach, and I was able to participate in an eight-aside one-day competition. The coaches spotted my talent, and I was given the opportunity to train with UAE females before making my debut in 2017.

 

Chaya Mughal - UAE Women's Cricket Team. PC: Female Cricket
Chaya Mughal – UAE Women’s Cricket Team. PC: Female Cricket

 

You made your debut for UAE in 2017. Can you share your experience of playing your first-ever international match?

Playing cricket in the UAE has always been exciting for me. When I think back on that moment, I still get goosebumps. I was nervous and excited at the same time. Nervous because it was UAE women’s first international cricket match and excited because I was a part of it.

How is cricket in UAE different from India?

To begin with, in India, players begin playing cricket at a very young age. I’ve even seen a father playing on one field while his son practicing on another. On the other hand, when it comes to women’s cricket, particularly in the UAE, they enroll after finishing middle or high school, resulting in low participation.

Second, as far as infrastructure is concerned, cricket in India has progressed a long way since I first began playing. Infrastructure, such as the number of grounds and amenities that meet both national and international norms, has improved significantly.

When it comes to cricket, there is no denying that the UAE has higher standards. Considering the weather conditions, it can be tough to practice outdoors at times; however, having the world-class facilities and high standard indoors facilities, it is incomparable to any facility in the world. There is no doubt that such incredible facilities have supported the development of UAE’s women’s cricket.

What is the criteria/pathway for ex-pats/foreigners to become part of the UAE National Cricket Team?

Also Read:  " I don’t think my family would have allowed me to play," says Indrani Roy who smashed 2 Centuries in Domestic League

A player must be in the country on a resident visa for a minimum of two years in order to meet the qualification standards for playing in the national team.

Chaya Mughal in action for UAE Women's Cricket Team. PC: Female Cricket
Chaya Mughal in action for UAE Women’s Cricket Team. PC: Female Cricket

 

After playing for 20 odd years, you played in front of the camera for the very first time in April this year. Can you throw some light on that?

It was undeniably a significant draw when this special edition of the ECB women’s D10 exhibition game was telecast live. The Emirates Cricket Board had taken this fantastic step to exhibit the standard of women’s cricket on this platform. This not only offered UAE women cricketers worldwide fame, but also gave them the confidence to perform in front of a virtual audience for the first time. This indicates that the opportunities presented by the Emirates Cricket Board are plentiful.

It is also known that you were a school teacher. How did you strike a balance between playing cricket and your teaching job?

Cricket is, of course, my passion, and I cannot stop myself from participating. It’s a blessing to be a cricketer since I adore this game. The excitement of playing cricket is an everlasting source of motivation for me. Cricket has taught me many lessons, but one that sticks with me is, “A hero is someone who believes in himself despite the fact that others do not.” This is something I try to live by in all aspects of my life.

Yes, I am still a teacher, and I believe that teaching is the most exciting profession since we are creating future leaders. As a sports player, I include play and learn methods of teaching, which allows the children to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new.

In short, if you enjoy doing something, you can always make time for it. Regardless of how busy I am with my teaching, I always manage to train and play matches. I believe that is the secret to maintaining the balance between teaching and playing cricket.

 

Chaya Mughal was part of ECB women's D10 exhibition game
Chaya Mughal was part of ECB women’s D10 exhibition game

 

Apart from being a solid all-rounder in the team, you are also the captain. How has it been leading the UAE team?

Playing cricket at this level, as well as the duty of leading a national side, is a great honour, but it comes with a great deal of liability. This (2021 ICC Women’s World T20 Asia Qualifiers) was my second attempt after we ended up competing in the global qualifiers last time. I understand how vital it is to have positive body language and be able to instill confidence in your teammates. My focus is on consistent performance, and I always want to be ready for whatever obstacles come my way.

What does it take to be a good captain? What are some key takeaways from your captaincy journey so far?

Being a good team player is one thing, but being a good captain is quite another. Few people will have the opportunity to take on such a significant leadership role. I am fortunate enough to be the one where I need to be a leader for my teammates both on and off the field.

As a team leader, I strive to compete in every drill and practice session, putting pressure on my teammates to work hard and outperform me. A good captain is also responsible for fostering team spirit by encouraging players to socialize with one another outside of training and games.

I’ve also learned that being captain does not always imply that you have to be the best player in the team. While you should always work hard towards improving your abilities as well as the abilities of your team, you should not be concerned with being the most talented or valuable player on the field. Work as hard as you can and be the best you can be so that if you have more talented teammates, they can look up to you.

Recently, you led your side to victory in ICC Women’s World T20 Asia Qualifier. Did you all expect it to happen before the tournament?

Also Read:  A teacher turned National Player - Interview with Chaya Mughal - UAE Women's Cricket Team

Our mantra was “one Team – one Dream,” and we all fought really hard to attain it. Everyone was present for all the practice sessions, and we all practised from two to three days per week, then four to five days per week. We were all pumped up because we all wanted to qualify, and we did. Playing outside in hot and humid weather was challenging, but we all enjoyed it.

I’m not sure if we expected this to happen, but the entire squad was certain that it would, and it was all the outcome of our hard work that enabled us to qualify undefeated for the Global qualifiers.

Chaya Mughal with ICC Women's World T20 Asia Qualifier Trophy
Chaya Mughal with ICC Women’s World T20 Asia Qualifier Trophy

 

Prior to playing this tournament, UAE played practice matches against the boys. How useful were those matches?

Playing practice matches gave us the confidence that we needed. It also provided an opportunity to try an unorthodox strategy or two. The games were meant to acclimatize the players. Playing practice matches with the boys allowed us to build some form of momentum within the group, enabling us to place a little more emphasis on the outcome of the game before the main tournament.

You made some useful contributions with both bat and ball in the tournament. Were you happy with your performance?

I am overjoyed with my contributions for the team. This has empowered and inspired me to work hard in the future in order to remain consistent and reliable.

Chaya Mughal receiving Player of the Match Award
Chaya Mughal receiving Player of the Match Award

 

A quick word on your team’s child prodigy Samaira Dharnidharka.

Samaira holds a special place in the hearts of every team member. She is a fiery and courageous young cricketer. I’ve always seen a lot of potential in her. She was eager to bowl confidently in the main matches. She might have bowled out any strong team with the way she bowled against Nepal. She has a promising future ahead of her.

With UAE qualifying for the ICC Women’s World T20 global qualifier that will be played next year, what areas do you think need improvement?

It is self-evident that increasing one’s fitness levels increase one’s cricket performance. With that in mind, and with a focus on what our particular fitness demands are, we will surely prioritize our fitness over our cricketing skills.

What message would you like to give to the young girls who are just starting out to play cricket?

Have fun and enjoy the game! Cricket is a fantastic game; play freely and seize every opportunity that comes your way. Make each encounter unforgettable.

To read more such interviews, click here 

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.

Liked the story? Leave a comment here