” Shafali Verma is on the march here on WACA ” says Ian Bishop in commentary as the 16 Years old kid from Haryana goes berserk in India’s second game in WT20 being played in Australia. India was taking on Bangladesh after a successful campaign against Australian Women in the tournament’s opener.
Shafali scored 29(15) against Australia which included 5 fours and a six. She continued the charge against Bangladesh in the second game where she scored 39(17) with the help of 2 fours and 4 sixes. 6 boundaries in 14 balls in the first match and then 4 sixes (total 6 boundaries again) in 16 balls as an opener talks about her mindset. She is bold and fearless and that is something Indian women’s cricket team hasn’t witnessed a lot, particularly in T20 cricket.
Shafali made her T20 International debut against South Africa in September, last year. The call up came after Mithali Raj announced her retirement and Indian team required someone to fill her void. Shafali, a wicketkeeper woman had accumulated 1923 runs in Domestic cricket and thus made a strong case for her selection. At an age of 15 Years and 239 days, she was dismissed on a duck by Shabnim Ismail on her Debut, much like her idol who was dismissed on zero on his ODI Debut.
7 weeks later in West Indies, she broke the record of Sachin Tendulkar to become the youngest Indian cricketer to score an International 50. She scored 73 from 49 balls and the signs of the exuberance she possessed was clearly evident.
And a couple of months later, here she is, lighting up T20 cricket, not just in the context of Indian cricket but as a wholesome cricket lover. Cut to 2018 where Indian team gained more headlines for dropping Mithali Raj from the semifinal which they lost than anything else. India’s top 4 consisted of Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodriguez and Harmanpreet Kaur for the major part.
Talking from the point of view of someone who is new to women’s cricket or let’s simply say cricket. And let’s just say the new viewer is a female to avoid the confusion about him/her. While Smriti, Jemimah and Harmanpreet would always keep her on the edge of her seat,Mithali, with a conservative and old fashioned style was never able to generate the same interest. While there are certain roles to be played even in a T20 game, which Mithali was pretty good at, nobody likes to see players approaching a T20 game in that dull way.
The inclusion of Shafali Verma brought a freshness to Indian T20 setup. She was exciting and flamboyant from the moment she began playing International cricket. If you’re a new follower of the game, you’d prefer aggression, flamboyance and exuberance over calmness and simplicity. Even though there is nothing wrong in being calm and composed. In certain situations, it even overpowers excitement. MS Dhoni has shown it time and again with his calm demeanor in pressure scenarios but when it comes to drawing new followers to the game, You’d always look upto a certain Virat Kohli or Virender Sehwag or the players having some spark and playing the game in a similar way more or less.
Verma is quite like Sehwag in her attitude and everybody loves Sehwag. She is fearless and has been given the license to go after the bowling in the first 6 overs. She has all the front foot shots in her book and her teammates reckon she will have the record of most sixes in women’s cricket by the time she finishes her career which has just started by the way. No matter whether she is playing against the world’s best bowling attack, her plan is simple – just see the ball and hit the ball. And unlike many of the batters in women’s cricket who slog their way out for runs, Verma hits those sixes over mid off and cover in as elegant way as you would see. Watch out for her solitary 6 against Australia for example.
This girl can seriously play ! #shafali
— Nasser Hussain (@nassercricket) February 24, 2020
And she is just 16. At such a young age, she is connecting more people to watch women’s cricket. Who wouldn’t love to see Verma going berserk and hitting boundaries for fun? It was something India missed when Mithali was playing. With all due respect to her, Indian women needed a fresh template to play T20 mathes and Shafali is giving them this luxury. They needed something similar in their men’s T20 team too as more often than not, they were playing the kind of boring and unexciting brand of T20 cricket until KL Rahul started opening more regularly in recent times.
Shafali’s approach and big hitting also eases the pressure from Mandhana and other batswomen in the batting order. India have only played two games in this tournament and anything could happen going forward, especially in knockout matches but one thing is going to be certain – people are going to turn on their TV set or start the digital streaming as soon as Shafali Verma enters the field with the bat in her hand and that is independent of her performance. This 16 years old kid is making people follow Women’s cricket and fall in love with it. She does have the potential to revolutionize Women’s cricket in this country and it’s just the case of not losing herself in the limelight in the years to come.