Shafali Verma: A Star at a Prodigy’s Age

Debut match, away game, toughest format, difficult conditions and opening batting, each of these aspects individually is enough to affect a player’s confidence. Top it with an age of only 17. Most of the players would have got frightened at the prospects of playing in such a situation. But Shafali Verma excelled in this situation. She scored 96 and 63 runs in each of the innings and was awarded the Player of the Match.

But this isn’t any one-off situation that she played such a knock. Back in 2019, she grabbed the headlines becoming the youngest Indian to score a half-century in T20s at the age of 15. She scored 73 runs in just 49 balls against West Indies. But how did her cricket journey start? Let’s have a look:

Rebellious Beginnings:

Shafali Verma started her cricket training as a 10-year old kid in the city of Rohtak. This was a place where girls playing outdoor sports wasn’t encouraged, but her father never minded all this nuisance. He used to be equally supportive of both her and her brother. She mostly played cricket with her brother and his friends. As there were no girls who played cricket around, Verma most often played with boys.

Teen star Verma flays Aussie attack in T20 blitz - YouTube

Shafali Verma hits a six (BCCI | Instagram)

I was lucky to have an upbringing that’s so different from most girls of my age. Many scoffed at the idea of a girl playing an outdoor sport with boys, but dad was adamant. Dad gave me everything that he would give to my elder brother.

Thanks to playing with boys, she developed her hard-hitting abilities which everyone is a fan of now. The rebelliousness shown by her dad towards the community is now visible in her batting.

The Big Ticket Match:

After some good performance in state-level games, she got picked for the big event, the Women’s T20 Challenge in 2019. To her luck, she was selected in a team led by someone she looked up to, Mithali Raj. Playing for the team Velocity, Verma struck 34 runs in 31 balls in her first game. This knock had 5 fours and a six, which got her the attention of the selectors. Her second match for Velocity was a disaster, she got out scoring only 2 runs. But the way which she scored against for of the best bowlers, in the first game became the talking point.

Entry to International Cricket and a Forgettable debut

A couple of months after the Women’s T20 Challenge, she got her maiden India call-up. This was for the T20 series against South Africa. And like many successful cricketers, she recorded a duck on her debut. She made up for that duck in the next match scoring 46 runs in 33 balls.

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She was then selected for the tour of West Indies. In the first T20I itself, she scored 73 runs in just 49 balls become the youngest international half-centurion in Indian cricket. She followed this with another fifty. In just her second series, she was named the ‘Player of the Tournament’. She also became the youngest player to be offered a central contract by the BCCI when she was 15.

A World Cup to Remember

In the T20 World Cup 2019, India played well until they went to the Finals. In the finals, they had an embarrassing defeat of 85 runs against the Australian team. However, Shafali Verma made a strong statement in this tournament. Ahead of the World Cup, she was ranked as the number one batter in women’s T20I cricket. In the World Cup, she scored 163 runs at a strike-rate of 158.25. She was the highest scorer in the tournament for India and the fifth-highest overall. By the end of the World Cup, she recorded the highest strike-rate in women’s T20s.

Big Dreams and a Test Debut

Shafali Verma always dreamt about playing all the formats for the country. Given her hard-hitting in T20s, many sceptics doubted her selection in the Test team. But with due support from the captain and the vice-captain, she was picked as the opener in the only Test match against England. But, she proved all the critics wrong by scoring 159 runs in the match. She played the entire game with a Sehwag-like fearless approach.

She, is now also in the ODI squad for the series against England. Only time will tell what she will do in the ODIs, but she has shown a lot of promise.

Fasten your seatbelts and follow her journey. You are seeing a superstar in the making!

Featured Image: BCCI | Twitter

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