"They've allowed me to bowl without any fear"
Teenage cricketer Mahika Gaur received her first senior England call-up for the upcoming white-ball series against Sri Lanka.
The 17-year-old made her international debut for the United Arab Emirates at the age of 12 against Indonesia during the Thailand Women’s T20 Smash in 2019.
But her love for cricket began when she went to an IPL game with her family.
The Reading-born teenager recalled:
“I don’t remember much of the match but when we got back to England I would try to bowl like them in the garden.
“My dad said I was rolling my arm properly and not chucking the ball so he thought I could have a future and I joined a club nearby.”
After moving to Dubai in 2014, Gaur reluctantly turned her attention to badminton after she could not find a cricket club.
Gaur says: “The first badminton match I played I lost 21-3, 21-3, which was really bad. That’s when I decided it wasn’t for me.
“On our way to training for badminton, we would pass the International Cricket Council Academy in Dubai so we decided to go in and the UAE women were having a training session.
“They asked me to bowl to the captain of the UAE women’s team and I kept bowling full tosses and she was defending them. That’s how it all started.”
Mahika Gaur is currently playing for Manchester Originals in The Hundred 2023 and has taken four wickets so far.
She said: “I was part of the team last year but didn’t get to play, but I still got to experience the environment.
“This year is different because I’m in the squad. I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a great group and they’ve made me feel really comfortable.
“The backing I’ve got from our captain and our coaches has been great. They’ve allowed me to bowl without any fear and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
The first thing people notice about Gaur is her height.
She stands 6ft 2in and tall left-arm swing bowlers in the women’s game are rare.
England’s World Cup winner Alex Hartley said of Gaur:
“She offers something different, both from being left-arm and 6ft 2in.
“What’s awkward is the bounce she gets from that height, but with that, she swings the ball a lot.
“Because she is so young, she hasn’t got the variations – she relies on her swing and pace.
“So as a batter, you want to get after her early and put her under pressure.”
England’s James Anderson added: “She has got a really nice action. I have been really impressed with her.
“She’s still very raw at 17 and has got lots of room to develop, but the initial signs are great.
“She swings the ball back in from that height and it’s very difficult to play.”
Gaur revealed that Anderson is one of her heroes.
She explained: “I look up to him a lot, he’s obviously the GOAT [greatest of all time].”
Recalling her reaction to her England call-up, she said:
“In the morning of our game against Trent Rockets I was late for breakfast and I had a text from head coach Jon Lewis asking to call him.
“I inhaled my breakfast and came back. I thought it was going to be about how I was performing.
“Honestly, the thought of playing for England wasn’t on my mind, so when he told me I didn’t know what to say.”
“I’ve always had it as a goal to play for England and I was always hoping it would come in the next four or five years, but I never thought it would come so soon.
“When I spoke to my parents they were really happy. They’ve only just gone back to Dubai and now they want to come back to see my debut.”
In addition to cricket, Mahika Gaur is also doing A-Levels in biology, psychology and maths. She hopes to go to university and study management.
She admitted: “It’s been really difficult, especially this year because there has been a lot of change.
“It’s helped me become more disciplined.
“When you have no choice but to play cricket or study, you waste less time. However, I do get really drained.”
Gaur hopes her England call-up will increase representation and inspire other South Asian girls.
The cricketer told BBC Sport:
“I hope there will be more role models now for young Asian girls in England so they feel like they can get into the sport, and hopefully in the future, we’ll see more and more South Asian women in the team.
“It’s not something I’ve felt scared about, I’ve felt super welcome in the squad and I want to act as a role model for them.”
England’s series against Sri Lanka runs between August 31 and September 14, 2023.