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Women's U-19 WC Triumph: Stars Unearthed, Trail Blazed, Glass Ceiling Shattered

Shafali Verma's team won the inaugural Women's Under-19 World Cup title.

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The dismay of the 98-run loss to Australia in the 2005 ODI World Cup final, the sorrow of the nine-run defeat to England in the final of the 2017 ODI World Cup and the despondency of the 85-run trouncing at the hands of the Aussies in the final of the 2020 T20 World Cup

And now comes pure jubilation- the ecstasy that emanates from being the proud owners of the inaugural women's Under-19 T20 World Cup trophy, an honour that no one can take away from the 15 members of the Indian squad part of the pioneering event.

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"Fabulous feeling. This is the feeling we have been waiting for very long." The head coach of the World Cup winning U-19 team and someone who found herself on the wrong side of the line in the 2005 ODI WC final, Nooshin Al Khadeer said after the triumph, conveying much more than a mere few words often do.

With substantial progress being made back home with respect to the funds coming into women's cricket, by way of the Women's IPL (read WPL), and the senior Indian women's team taking big strides with every passing tournament, women's cricket in India has caught an upward spiral and does not look like slowing down anytime soon. 

How it Unfolded

After crushing wins over South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Scotland to start their campaign, Shafali Verma's Indian Under-19 team received a bit of a jolt after their seven-wicket loss to Australia.

Since then, they pulled up their socks and did not give their opponents a sniff. A win over Sri Lanka in the super six stage was followed by a commanding performance against New Zealand in the semi-final, culminating in a comprehensive win over England in the final by seven wickets en route to the championship triumph. 

On the day of the final, it was medium pacer Titas Sadhu who set the ball rolling. She was awarded the Player of Match for her opening spell in which she conceded just six runs and picked up two crucial wickets. The tally could have read three had wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh not shelled a tough chance. 

Shafali Verma's team won the inaugural Women's Under-19 World Cup title.

Titas Sadhu of India poses after being named Player of the Match following the ICC Women's U19 T20 World Cup 2023 Final match between India and England at JB Marks Oval on January 29, 2023 in Potchefstroom, South Africa

(Photo: ICC)

Sadhu's new ball bowling partner Archana Devi not only kept things tight with her precise off spin but also claimed the prized scalp of England captain and Player of the Tournament Grace Scrivens who could have been a thorn in India's flesh had she not been pulled out early.

Leg spinner Parshavi Chopra carried on her good work in the tournament and finished with figures of 4-0-13-2. 

India were jolted early in their rather modest chase of 69, losing both openers by the time the score touched 20. Given that Shafali Verma and Shweta Sehrawat had been the team's top scorers, losing them so early on the big day could have set the cat among the pigeons. 

Fortunately for the side, Soumya Tiwari and Gongadi Trisha gave a superb account of their calm selves as they mixed caution with aggression in a match-winning 46-run partnership. 

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Shafali Verma's team won the inaugural Women's Under-19 World Cup title.

Players of India look on during the ICC Women's U19 T20 World Cup 2023 Final match between India and England at JB Marks Oval on January 29, 2023 in Potchefstroom, South Africa

(Photo: ICC)

Celebrations Followed

Members of the Indian dugout were itching to run out on the field on a sunny afternoon in Potchefstroom, perhaps inspired by their male Under-19 counterparts who have achieved the feat a record five times. It was now Shafali & Co's moment in the sun and they were in no mood to let the spotlight go begging. 

An Indian flag was dutifully produced and the girls lined up on the boundary line like athletes waiting for the gunshot. After a couple of false triggers, the gunshot came in the form of a punch from Soumya Tiwari which was poetically misfielded by the cover fielder, and thus began the rip-roaring celebrations. 

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Stars of the Future 

To be honest, (relatively) senior players Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh fell short of the lofty expectations, but their teenage teammates did not disappoint. 

Vice-captain Shweta Sehrawat was the one who rose to the tallest heights, finishing as the highest run-scorer not only for India but in the entire competition with 297 runs at a Bradmanesque average of 99 and an impressive strike rate of almost 140, with three half centuries and the best of 92 not out to her name. Her heady mix of a strong technique, gifted timing and shot making ability has put her closer to an India cap than most might estimate. 

Gongadi Trisha was another batting talent unearthed in the competition. Although she managed only 116 runs from seven digs, there was enough on display to reveal her hitting ability.

There were a number of protagonists on the bowling front. The successor of Poonam Yadav and Devika Vaidya, leggie Parshavi Chopra ended up as the highest wicket-taker for India and the second-highest in the competition with 11 wickets at an average of 7 and an economy rate of just 3.66. 

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Shafali Verma's team won the inaugural Women's Under-19 World Cup title.

G Trisha of India takes a catch to dismiss Grace Scrivens of England during the ICC Women's U19 T20 World Cup 2023 Final match between India and England at JB Marks Oval on January 29, 2023 in Potchefstroom, South Africa

(Photo: ICC)

Mannat Kashyap also bagged nine poles at 10.33 while Archana Devi claimed eight at 13.12. Pacer Titas Sadhu shone the brightest on the day of the final. Her ability to move the ball prodigiously has already placed her on the radar of the senior women's selectors. 

Another department which was a stand out unto itself was India's fielding on the day of the final. Having just about got passing marks until the final, the team lifted their standards when it mattered the most. 

Some of the ground fielding and catching, despite two dropped chances, has to go down as way more encouraging then any batting or bowling performance throughout the competition. Regrettably, it is their wretched fielding which has let the senior women's team down over and over again in ICC events. 

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Shafali Verma's team won the inaugural Women's Under-19 World Cup title.

Shafali Verma of India lifts the ICC Women's U19 T20 World Cup Trophy following the ICC Women's U19 T20 World Cup 2023 Final match between India and England at JB Marks Oval on January 29, 2023 in Potchefstroom, South Africa

(Photo: ICC)

Blazing a Trail 

As compared to the men's circuit, the junior girls have a tendency to graduate to the senior team quite quickly. With the exception of Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Ravi Bishnoi and Shivam Mavi to some extent, the likes of Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Ishan Porel are yet to establish themselves in the IPL, let alone the senior team despite taking the men's Under-19 World Cup by storm. However, don't be surprised to see a few of the girls from this batch in the senior side within a couple of years. 

The primary Indian broadcasters had been debating about whether the Indian women's team or the men's team would bring an end to India's World Cup drought since 2011. Well, guess what, it is the junior girls who have blazed a trail and it is now up to the seniors to follow their footsteps.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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