Next Gen: The A-level student called up by England - 6 minutes read
Throughout the 2023 Hundred, BBC Sport is running a feature series called England Next Gen, designed to look at players who may make the step up to international cricket in the next few years. Next up is Manchester Originals and Thunder bowler Mahika Gaur.
The Reading-born teenager made her international debut for the United Arab Emirates aged 12, against Indonesia during the Thailand Women's T20 Smash in 2019.
Her love for the game began at six years old, when Gaur went to an Indian Premier League game in Jaipur to watch Rajasthan Royals v Delhi Capitals with her family.
"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," says Gaur.
"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 had to end her love affair with cricket after not being able to find a club and she turned her attention to badminton.
"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," she says.
"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."
Gaur is part of the Manchester Originals side in The Hundred this year and has made an impression on her team-mates, coaches and commentators with her form, having taken four wickets so far.
"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," she says.
"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."
Taking after her father, who is 6ft 4in, Gaur's height is often the first thing people notice about her. She's 6ft 2in and tall left-arm swing bowlers in the women's game are rare.
England's World Cup winner Alex Hartley, who recently announced her retirement from cricket, admires 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 swing bowler James Anderson has similar thoughts on the youngster: "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."
Anderson is one of Gaur's heroes. "I look up to him a lot, he's obviously the GOAT [greatest of all time]," she says.
Gaur is already following in her idol's footsteps with her England call-up.
"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," she recalls.
"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."
While gracing the field, Gaur is also balancing finishing her A-levels, studying biology, psychology and maths. She hopes to go to university and study management.
"It's been really difficult, especially this year because there has been a lot of change," she says.
"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."
There are currently no South Asian women playing for England and Gaur hopes her inclusion will increase representation and inspire other young girls.
"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," she says.
"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 are preparing for a white-ball series against Sri Lanka and Gaur is expecting a Bazball-esque performance.
"We've got our own thing going on with being fearless," she says.
"It's a great environment and I really loved the way the head coach spoke to me. I felt no pressure. We just go out there and express ourselves.
"You're going to make mistakes and they expect us to because it will make us better.
"I'm learning to just let things happen. For my bowling I used to be very particular with it but lately I've just been allowing it to happen. I think we can apply that to life too."
When Gaur was younger she would imagine herself bowling in an England shirt to help her get to sleep. This month, that dream will become a reality.
Source: BBC News
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