Shafali Verma: The flag-bearer of women's cricket for years to come
- Shafali Verma is the teenage batting sensation who has taken the world by storm.
Shafali Verma is a name that would cheer up the faces of most Indian fans these days. Her batting exploits had single-handedly propelled India to the final to the Women's World T20 2020 with very little contribution from the main guns, Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur where India faced a deflating reversal at the hands of hosts Australia in the final.
What stands out about her game is her fearless strokeplay and her ' see ball hit ball ' approach that has propelled her to the summit of the T20I rankings in a short span of time. To top it off, Shafali is just 16 years of age and made her debut in the T20 format as recently as September 2019 against South Africa. If not for her blistering starts at the top of the order India would have struggled to put up substantial totals on the board with the middle order failing to fire and capitalizing on the start Shafali has provided.
There's been a method to Shafali's madness at the top of the order: dominate from the get-go and repeatedly land blows over the infield during the powerplay taking advantage of the field restrictions.
Shafali's belligerent hitting at the top ensured that India ended with the most and quickest runs in the powerplay for all teams in the group stages. To put things into perspective, India finished with 198 runs in 4 innings in the powerplay at a run rate of 8.25 with England coming a distant second with 163 runs in 4 innings at a run rate of 6.79. Her scores got better with each game. Her strike rate in the WT20 stands at 158.25, also the best in the league. 29 off 15 balls against the mighty Aussies, 39 off 17 balls against Bangladesh, 46 off 34 balls against New Zealand, 47 off 34 balls against Sri Lanka. These are her scores in the World T20 group stages where she has dismantled some of the best bowlers allowing the middle order batters some breathing space and masking the failures of India's two superstars, Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana. The only innings where she couldn't fire and got out early was, unfortunately, the final where chasing a total of 185 India crumbled under pressure to hand Australia a dominating victory.
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It helped that the Indian team management trusted her abilities and gave her the free license to go berserk at the top of the order. Her major source of support throughout her cricketing journey has been her father who shut her off from all the skepticism since she was brought up in Rohtak where girls are rarely allowed to take up outdoor sports. She had to face rejection in most of the cricket academies there since there was none for a girl and had to have a boy's haircut so she could play with the boys, something which she says has helped immensely in her short career so far. It was ingrained to her from the very beginning that it would be her big-hitting which would bring her in the limelight thereby, resulting in her fearless approach.
A new approach
Former India cricketer and batting coach Sanjay Bangar was effusive in his praise for the youngster and stated that Shafali's spectacular strokeplay has provided a fresh perspective on how the shortest format should be played in the women's circuit. He further went onto add
"You obviously watch which areas a particular batter tends to score, anybody, scoring through the off-side really well means that the person can score all around the park. It is brilliant that we have unearthed such a talent ".
Shafali's pyrotechnics have also seen some compare her to Virender Sehwag who himself had words of praise for the talented teenager calling her a rockstar of women's cricket.
With the world at her feet at such a young age, the 'SKY IS THE LIMIT' for this precociously talented teenager. If her start in international cricket is anything to go by 'Shafali Verma' will be the flag-bearer of women's cricket for years to come, and serve as an inspiration to the upcoming generation of women's cricketers ready to take up the game.
Published 09 Mar 2020, 14:36 IST