She has broken a record belonging to Sachin Tendulkar (the youngest Indian to score a fifty), she's batting for equal pay for the women's team, and now she's aiming for her maiden World Cup triumph in Australia.
That's quite a handful for a 16-year-old. Yes, 16.
When most cricket newbies her age were still trying to get hold of different formats of the game and still trying to understand the rules, Shafali Verma was tonking the best all-rounder in the world, going by the name of Ellyse Perry, in her backyard. It hadn't been more than 15 days since Perry bowled an over to Tendulkar in the Bushfire relief game; little did she know that she'd be smashed to all parts of the ground by a teenager having a Tendulkar-ish backlift and Sehwag-like (minimal) footwork.
Verma doesn't like complicating the game much. Instead, she follows the mantra of 'see the ball, hit the ball', which in fact has worked well till now. Scoring a quick-fire 40-odd is gold for the Indian women's team; ask the fallen heroes of the 2017 WC finalists, Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur.
The last thing that the Indian team needs is a batter stuck at the crease with absolutely no timing and zero rotation of the strike. By the time the opposition spin their web around Verma, her job is done.
Also see – IPL Players List
The 'V' is what Verma aims for. Any length ball outside the off-stump is dispatched. She doesn't aim to keep it on the ground; the power that she creates is enough to take it over the in-fielders, even if she mis-hits.
This was on display in her last two innings - against Bangladesh and Australia. With her front-foot intact, she targeted the cover region with quite some success.
Verma's tall build helps her get that extra yard on the follow-through which in turn gets her the distance. That's quite unusual in the women's game.
Harmanpreet Kaur's high backlift and high grip get her the sixes she desires, but she depends more on timing the ball. She uses the crease according to the bowler's lengths and tries to find the sweet spot. Verma, on the other hand, backs herself to clear the stands while staying in the crease and generating immense power through her bottom-hand.
If Verma continues to bat the same way, then she will have to make peace with failures more often than not. The role of the support staff and players, especially the captain, will determine the heights Verma will scale in the face of her critics.
Hopefully, Harmanpreet Kaur will be the Sourav Ganguly to Shafali Verma and continue Virender Sehwag's legacy.Published 26 Feb 2020, 17:01 IST