By Graham Hardcastle, ECB Reporters Network
‘Oh, Mahika Gaur is magic, she wears a magic hat’. No, really, the Thunder fast bowler actually does having demonstrated to her team-mates an unlikely extra string to her bow.
“Magic Meeks we call her because she’s also got a few card tricks up the old sleeve,” smiled Thunder captain Ellie Threlkeld as she discussed the rise of the towering 17-year-old UAE international quick who has taken to regional cricket like a duck to water this summer.
"She brings them out every now and again, and her bowling’s been pretty magic as well. I think that’s a nickname that will stick for her.”
Thunder are hoping left-armer Gaur will help fire them to glory in Saturday’s Charlotte Edwards Cup Finals Day at New Road, where she will be looking to add to her tally of eight wickets in her first 10 regional appearances.
They face Southern Vipers in the 12pm semi-final for the right to play the The Blaze in the final four hours later.
Gaur’s tale is a remarkable one. Born in Reading, she moved to Dubai at the age of eight.
Already hooked on cricket following a family holiday to India included taking in an IPL game, Gaur was enrolled at the ICC Global Academy in Dubai.
She progressed through the age-groups and made her senior international debut for the UAE in January 2019 - the first of 19 T20I appearances to date.
Her debut for the UAE actually came 18 months before the start of regional cricket and Thunder’s inception in summer 2020.
In October 2021, Lancashire sent a delegation to the Dubai Expo event as part of their sponsorship with Fly Emirates, with former wicketkeepers Warren Hegg and Farokh Engineer, current men’s club captain Keaton Jennings and England Women’s star Kate Cross all there.
They put on a coaching masterclass session at the event, and Gaur attended and immediately caught the eye with her languid action. "Silky" is a description Hegg has since used.
Enquiries were immediately made as to whether she was eligible to play in England, which she was through birth.
A month later, she was on a plane to the North West, spending a fortnight or so at Emirates Old Trafford and also visiting Sedbergh School in Cumbria, where she chose to continue her education. Harry Brook is their most famous alumni.
Since then, she has progressed through the Thunder Academy and made her senior regional debut at the end of April, claiming three wickets in a Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy defeat against Western Storm.
Earlier this week, before claiming two for 27 from four overs in the must win CE Cup clash with Diamonds at Blackpool on Thursday, she was invited to an England women’s training camp held at Repton School in the build-up to the Women’s Ashes.
🗣️ “We deserve it, with the way we’ve played in the last few games!” @EllieThrelkeld & @FiMorris8 gave their reaction to LancsTV after we secured our first ever Finals Day berth! 🤩— Thunder Cricket 💥 (@Thundercric) June 7, 2023
💥 #BringTheThunder pic.twitter.com/6ItosjzOJc
That is her ultimate goal - many believe her destiny - with work currently being done on adding between 8-10 mph of pace to her bowling with help from Sedbergh director of cricket Martin Speight.
“Mahika’s definitely got potential to play for England,” said Threlkeld. “There’s absolutely no doubt about that.
“She’s really tall and swings the ball into the right-handed batter. It’s something you don’t see a lot of in women’s cricket. She’s got a point of difference.
“She’s one of the calmest people I’ve ever met. I’ve said it a few times. If you listen to a guided meditation recording, her voice is like listening to that.
“I’ve given her the ball in key moments, and she’s really embraced that. I love the way she goes about her cricket, and she’s going to be a huge player for us.
“As a youngster, she’s still learning. That’s frightening because you think about how good she could end up being. She’s a really exciting talent.”
Not only will Saturday be a big day for Gaur, it will be for Threlkeld as the England A wicketkeeper-batter leads Thunder into their first regional showpiece occasion.
They hope to have England trio Sophie Ecclestone, Kate Cross and Emma Lamb available, though are planning to be without them.
Threlkeld added: “In high-pressure games, it’s about being calm and collected under pressure, and I think we showed that against the Diamonds (bowled them out for 96 and chased it in 15 overs to qualify). Hopefully we can show that again.
“It’s Thunder’s first Finals Day, so enjoying it will be part of the plan as well.”