Natasha Cherriath, 14, was 12 years old when she was appointed UAE captain in the 2007 ACC Women’s Tournament in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. She was more of a bowler then, distinguished by her grace under pressure and accurate medium-pace. Those qualities were still on display in the recently concluded ACC U-19 Women’s Championship and to them were added a thumping off-drive and terrific batting technique. She finished Batter of the Tournament with 121 runs at 30.25. She is on her way to being one of the best cricketers in Asia.

Natasha Cherriath spoke to us in Chiang Mai and, following the conclusion of the U-19 tournament, online from her home in Dubai.

“Although some of my friends dislike the game, I still think it’s amazing.”

When did you start playing cricket?

“I started playing in August 2003 in the Sharjah Cricket Academy. I was coached at the time by Shahzad Altaf, a UAE national cricketer who played in the 1996 World Cup. I was one girl amongst all the boys playing cricket.”

What do you love about the game?

“I just love the game itself. Although some of my friends dislike the game, I still think it’s amazing. Probably the reason why they can’t sit through a game is because it takes an entire day to finish but now with Twenty20, they’re starting to get the hang of it.”

There is so much that cricket can teach you in life. It teaches us about hard work, to learn from our mistakes and respect for the opposition. Going through life we’re bound to hit lows and the important thing is to just keep working hard at whatever we’re doing and we’ll definitely get better at it.

What’s been different about this ACC U-19 tournament compared to the senior teams’ one last year in Malaysia?

“We are a young and energetic bunch and there is a great sense of team spirit. Not that things were much different in Malaysia – but for the senior tournament there were vast age gaps but still the players respected me as a captain and I really needed that support from them. It is really what matters most to me.”

What’s been your favorite moment in the U-19 tournament?

“It was most definitely when I got my half-century. Other moments have been when our performances put a smile on our coach and manager’s faces. When we lost to Qatar, they were so disappointed and so when we win it feels so good to give something back to them after they’ve worked so hard with all of us.”

How does it feel to be awarded Batter of the Tournament?

“There are no words to express the feeling, as this is my first major international award playing with the girls. My previous awards have been while I was playing with the boys. It was an all-round team effort, but I am glad that I could accomplish this. It feels great!”

How will winning this award influence you?

“This will definitely give me a boost to play better and achieve more. I started off as a bowler and always came to the crease at the tail-end of the batting order while playing with the boys. I worked hard to improve my batting, but never imagined that I would receive recognition like this as a batsman. This will encourage me to improve my all-round skills and achieve even more next time.”

Who are your cricketing heroes?

“In the batting department, I look up to Rahul Dravid. It is always interesting to watch him because his technique and skill is amongst the best in the world. He is also a very good fielder.

As a bowler, I like Brett Lee. I had the chance to meet him at a Dubai coaching camp. Even though he didn’t spend too much time with us, the little tips he gave such as pulling my left hand in like I’m yanking on a chain at the time of the delivery, helped me develop as a bowler.”

How often do you play on turf back home? Has it been hard adjusting to conditions here in Thailand?

“We get to play three days a week on turf but with our performances here hopefully we will have more frequent matches on turf wickets. The wickets back home are hard and flat, therefore the ball comes onto the bat much quicker.”

How has this tournament helped you develop as a cricketer?

“There is a lot of responsibility being the vice-captain but obviously not as much as the captain’s role so I’m thankful for that. This tournament has given me confidence and since I’ve not been under too much pressure, my batting and bowling performances have improved.”

Do you see yourself playing cricket in the future?

“I would most definitely love to continue playing the game at the highest level I can. Cricket is growing all over the UAE and the grounds and facilities are always improving. The association has been tirelessly working to provide us with matches and the grounds and I just enjoy playing cricket.”

What do you want to achieve as a cricketer in the UAE?

“I would want to see the game grow all over the UAE. It is sad to think that some parents don’t like their girls playing cricket but the parents’ support is very important if the child wishes to play. All the players put in a lot of hard work and even though some don’t get chosen I would like to encourage them to keep trying because positives will come.”