Image Credits: @FISTOSTAFF
Despite being only 17 years old, Shafali Verma is already one of the more experienced heads in the ever-growing class of hugely talented young Indian Women cricketers gaining match experience and catching the eye on the world stage.
Women’s cricket in India is developing at a rampant pace and has been doing so for the last decade. While Mithali Raj paved the way for others, Smriti Mandhana has shown that there is a valuable career for women in the sport. This has led 17-year-old Shafali Verma to burst onto the world scene to showcase the dedication and maturity it takes to make it to the top.
View this post on Instagram
Shafali Verma was born on the 24th of January 2004 in Rohtak, Haryana. An avid fan of cricket, Shafali grew up watching the greatest batsmen in the history of Indian National cricket- Sachin Tendulkar. Tendulkar had a certain finesse in his stroke play, while his timing would also amaze the best ballers of that time. This caught Shafali’s eye, and she wanted to pursue this career, no matter what it took to get there.
Thus, at the age of 9, Shafali joined Ram Narain Academy, which was situated in the outskirts of Rohtak City. It almost felt like she was born to bat her heart out, such was her calibre at the age of 9. It was also often said that the other girls in her age category could not match up to her, courtesy of which, they made Shafali play with the U-19 boys’ team.
While Shafali was not an expert in every area of the game, she knew how to time a ball, and she had the power to blast it out of the park. While people might call this a ‘freak of nature', Shafali has reiterated that it has taken countless hours of training, determination, and the support of her loved ones to get where she is today.
STYLE OF PLAY AND THE TRAINING THAT WENT BEHIND IT
View this post on Instagram
Like most Indian cricketers, Shafali is a right-handed batsman. However, like very few Indian cricketers, she can time the ball gloriously. She is famous for finding the gaps in between fielders while also scoring incredible boundaries. One of Shafali’s signature shots is a flick of the wrists to hit a six-over long-on. It is not every day you see somebody hitting the ball so effortlessly, but Shafali Verma can certainly do so.
Additionally, she also loves playing the ‘pull shot, something she mastered over time. While she trains hard like any cricketer, she focuses on specific deliveries as well.
"If you try to get better at something and get complacent after trying just once, it never works out. I chalked out a plan and played 150 balls [bouncers] at a time, then rested for a bit and faced more bouncers. I focused on practising the same thing over and over again”. -she told ESPNcricinfo.com
To put things into perspective, a bouncer takes a lot of toll on one’s back and thighs. However, Shafali always had the hunger to gain perfection in every shot she played. For example- she could not drive the ball as exquisitely as she can today. Back at the Ram Narain academy, it took her several weeks to play the ball on the ground and not in the air. Today, there are few women cricketers better than her who can drive the ball so gloriously across the cover region.
Shafali also had an issue playing on the back foot because she was more often than not asked to play on the front foot, given that she was trained as an explosive opening batsman. However, as Shafali developed her game, she found out that playing on the back-foot as its own perks. You can defend well against in-swinging balls while it is also a helpful trick against spinners. You need to know when to hit the ball and when to defend against it, and Shafali understood this over time. In fact, she started playing against the Ranji bowlers to practice playing on the back-foot.
"My back-foot game was a bit weak earlier, but facing the Ranji bowlers, who would come in at around 140kph, has helped better my technique and confidence on that front”.
The relentless need for perfection has helped Shafali Verma turn into the next big thing in Women’s cricket.
Her last game against South Africa is an accurate representation of the player she is today. While she targeted the long-on boundary time and again, she had various other shots in her armour, and it showed the incredible development of the youngster over the years.
ROAD TO GLORY AND FUTURE PROSPECTS
View this post on Instagram
By 2017, all of Haryana knew about Shafali Verma’s talent and that she would go a far way if she taps into the potential everybody knew existed. Thus, Shafali came into the limelight as a fifteen-year-old in 2019, when she struck an incredible 128 off 56 balls for Haryana against Nagaland in a Women’s domestic T20 match. This knock, in turn, propelled her to the Women’s T20 Challenge Cup.
Verma impressed again as she was then selected for the holy grail—The Indian National Women’s T20I team. The 15-year-old, however, got an early taste of what international cricket is all about as she was dismissed for a duck in her debut match. However, she did not let this affect her in any way, and she showed her class in the fourth T20 as she delivered a match-winning knock.
This was, however, nothing compared to her achievement in the fifth T20 when she became the youngest Indian cricketer (15 years and 285 days) to score a half-century for the nation, breaking Sachin Tendulkar’s record (16 years and 214 days) in the process. However, that was not the only record Verma broke that day. In the course of the innings, Shafali recorded a 143-run partnership alongside Smriti Mandhana, which is the highest for India in Women's T20I’s.
Shafali Verma continued her sublime form into this year’s series against South Africa, although the Indian team lost the series 2-1. In the three games Shafali played, she scored 23, 47, and her incredible knock of 60 runs in just 30 deliveries. While the first two games showed that Shafali is only getting started, the third game portrayed the run-monster India have in their hands. The 17-year-old annihilated the South African bowlers by hitting wonderful strikes across all areas of the pitch.
This led to Shafali Verma being ranked the No. 1 - T20 batter, a feat very few cricketers achieve in their lifetime, and given that she has already done so at the age of 17, the Rohtak girl could be a key driver for Women’s cricket in India. It is also worth noting that in the 21 months since her international debut, Verma has hit more sixes in T20Is than any other female cricketer, helped take India to their maiden T20 World Cup final, and twice topped the Women's T20I batting rankings.
CAN’T HELP BUT GET EXCITED ABOUT SHAFALI’S PROGRESS
View this post on Instagram
Shafali Verma is also reportedly set to make her Women’s big bash league debut this year in Australia after signing a 2-year-contract with the Sydney sixers. Additionally, Verma is also set to feature in the inaugural edition of the Hundred, the 100-ball domestic competition of the England Cricket Board (ECB). However, Shafali’s eye will now be on India’s tour of England in mid-June, where the 17-year-old is all set to make her debut in the longest format of the game. While people were surprised when the youngster was not selected for the ODI games against South Africa earlier this year, the plan is to ease Verma slowly into the other formats of the game, and given that it is a ‘one-off’ Test, Verma will have the freedom to showcase her all-round game as well as make a compelling case to become a starter in all formats of the game.
At just 17, Shafali Verma is already on top of the cricketing world, with the only question being whether she can duplicate her T20 form into the other formats of the game as well. The girl from Rohtak is aiming to drive her country to success one day, but before that, she will have to become a regular in the national side regardless of the format, and it might not be long before Shafali Verma becomes a household name in India.
Do you think you’re a hot hand at Fantasy Cricket? Do you back yourself to play your chips in the right gametime, and nail your captain every single time?
Now is your chance to prove it – and win some prizes in the process.
Download BalleBaazi app now and start playing your favourite sports to win real cash and daily rewards!