At 15 Yrs, Shafali Already Knows How to Wield the Bat Ferociously
At 15 years 221 days, Shafali is one of the youngest cricketers to debut for India.
For 15-year-old Shafali Verma, the year just keeps getting better.
On Thursday, the Rohtak-based cricketer got her maiden India call-up for the T20I series against South Africa, starting 24 September in Surat. Shafali, who is a specialist opener, will most probably find a place at the top of the batting order.
At 15 years 221 days, Shafali is one of the youngest cricketers to make debuts for India. Only former Bengal cricketer Gargi Banerji has represented India at a younger age. Gargi made her international debut against England in 1978 while she was 14 years and 165 days.
Shafali also bettered legend Sachin Tendulkar. Tendulkar played his first match for India against Pakistan when he was 16 years 238 days.
Now coming to the maiden India call-up for Shafali. It wasn’t something that happened out of the blue. Shafali had an excellent last 12 months with the bat. Mithali Raj’s decision to retire from the shortest format of the game just accelerated the process.
Already three seasons old with the Haryana team, Shafali gained prominence during the Women's T20 Challenge earlier this year in May.
Playing for the Mithali Raj-led Velocity in the tournament, Shafali scored 34 off 31 balls, while opening the innings against an attack comprising international bowlers. The innings consisted of six boundaries - five fours and a six.
Shefali’s innings was of such high calibre that even English opener and her Velocity teammate Danielle Wyatt was in complete awe and even went on to call her a ‘superstar in the making.’
“She is going to be superstar. Probably in the next year or so, she'll break into the Indian team. She stood out for me in the nets from Day 1. I didn't think she was that young, and then when I heard she was only 15, I was like: 'Wow.' She knows all the bowlers, knows what to do, is very hard-working and switched on,” Wyatt had said.
But again, this wasn’t the first time that Shefali was exhibiting such high-octane, aggressive batting.
During the 2018-19 senior women’s inter-state T20 tournament, Shefali scored 186 runs from six innings at a whopping strike rate of 187.87.
In the same tournament she made a 56-ball 128 against Nagaland, which went on to become the highest score of the tournament.
In ODIs too Shefali has played her aggressive brand of cricket. During the senior women's U19 One-Day League this year, Shafali managed scores of 7-ball 21, 19-ball 31, 57-ball 101, 58-ball 98 and 77-ball 125. All this while opening the innings. Her tally of 376 runs in five innings at a strike of 172.47 was yet another proof of Shafali's destructive batting.
At a little over five-feet tall, Shafali’s looks are deceptive. The pocket-size powerhouse has shown in a very short time that she is quite capable of disposing the ball in the stands on a regular basis.
At the same time, she hasn’t sacrificed on the technical aspect of her batting. Her pulls, cuts, and drives, both off the back foot and the front foot during her innings in the Women's T20 Challenge have showed how sound she is technically.
In recent times, we have seen Smriti Mandhana fighting a lone battle at the start of the innings, especially in the T20s. Her opening partners, be it veteran Mithali Raj, Harleen Deol or Taniya Bhatia, have failed either to score at a faster pace or only ended up giving away their wickets in doing so.
In such a circumstance, Shafali can be the perfect foil. Especially because she plays a similar brand of cricket and displays the same kind of boldness while facing the new ball. India’s problem at the top of the order might be solved.
And as far as handling higher quality of bowling is concerned, Shafali has already given us a sneak preview of her talent in May. If the final product is even half as good as the preview, a blessed future awaits both Shafali Verma and Indian Women’s Cricket.
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