What is it that makes us fans affirm that a player is an outrageously talented batsman/batswoman? Is it their bat-swing, their stance; their head-position; the way they ease into their shots; the way they stamp their authority on the opposition or the manner in which they make it all about themselves when they are at the crease? Add perseverance, tenacity and the unrelenting penchant towards this beautiful game, and we’d get the entire package in the form of 16-year-old Shafali Verma.
Not everyone can boast of all the attributes mentioned above and sweep cricket fans off their feet but then how many players play a World Cup for their country at the age of 16? Let alone representing the country at 15 years and 239 days. Shafali hails from the state of Haryana- a place renowned for consistently churning out physically gifted sports personalities, whose USP lies in their brute, raw strength.
Shafali spearheading the Indian batting is another example of her rising to the occasion
In the ongoing Women’s T20 World Cup, the feisty right-handed swashbuckler has time and again managed to show us her aforementioned face, especially, when she shellacked the Bangladesh bowling attack to the tune of four monstrous sixes and two equally brutal fours during her whirlwind 17-ball 39.
With Smriti Mandhana out due to illness, the onus was on Shafali to maximize the first six overs and lay a platform for the middle-order to build on. The burden of extra responsibility often bogs down an individual, preventing him/her from playing their natural game.
But, then, as they say, when you have encountered adversities throughout your life, it doesn’t faze you anymore. In fact, all it does is channelize the inner-beast in you. And boy, didn’t it happen with teenager Shafali Verma in every match so far in the mega event?
When Shafali disguised herself as her boy to play a U12 tournament
Of course, this wasn’t the first time that Shafali had to encounter such a situation. Back in 2012, after her brother Sahil, who was supposed to take part in the U12 tournament had fallen ill, the teenage prodigy- who at the time had a boyish haircut- disguised herself as her brother and went on to win the Player of the Match as well as Player of the Series and thus started the cricketing journey of the Rohtak wonder girl.
‘Back in 2012, her brother Sahil had to go to Panipat for a U12 tournament. But he fell sick and couldn’t go. Then she disguised herself as Sahil and took part. She won the Man of the Match and Man of the Series awards and they couldn’t identify that she is a girl,” her father Sanjeev was quoted as saying in an interview with India Today.
When the 9-year-old Shafali decided to cut her hair following gender-bias
Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar inspired a generation of budding cricketers during the course of his celebrated 24-year-old career and he continued doing that till the final chapters of his awe-inspiring career. For Shafali Verma- a nine-year-old kid- who was born 15 years  after the Master Blaster had made his debut- the mere sight of watching him play in his final FC match in Lahli , was enough to spark an unrelenting desire in her to pursue her dream of one day representing the country.
But, it wasn’t going to be hunky-dory for the teenage prodigy and Shafali Verma soon realized the reality of living in a conservative place in Rohtak where even a mere thought of a girl doing anything other than the ‘normal’ household duties was inconceivable.
Shafali was rejected from every cricket academy that she’d had applied purely on the basis of gender. But the kid was undeterred. She soon figured out a way to deal with the situation and that was the moment- Yep! You’re right! She decided to don a boy haircut to “bridge” this gap and after finally convincing her father, who has played a pivotal role in Shafali’s journey thus far.
Post having the haircut, Shafali finally found an Academy that was willing to take her. And, it was here at the Ram Narain Academy that coach Ashwni Kumar spotted the outrageous talent that was Shafali. “The girls were no match for her. So I started playing her with the U19 boys. She used to take the U19 bowlers to the cleaners.” Ashwani Kumar told Times of India.
From idolizing Tendulkar to breaking his 30-year-old record
Shafali Verma continued to take giant strides courtesy her fearless attitude, raw power and, of course, an abundance of talent. Her moment of reckoning truly arrived in 2018−19 when she blazed away with a whirlwind 128 off 56 balls for the senior state team in a domestic tournament. Shafali’s shenanigans didn’t go unnoticed and she was selected for the Women’s T20 Challenge where Danielle Wyatt declared her as the next big thing.
And, the ‘next big thing’ finally made her debut at an age of 15 years and 239 days in the home series against South Africa and it took her just 4 T20Is and 46 days to break the 30-year-old record of her idol Sachin Tendulkar to become the youngest Indian cricketer to score an international half-century- 43-ball 79 against West Indies.
Shafali is turning a lot of heads including the likes of Nasser Hussain, Virender Sehwag, and Ian Bishop- with her blistering strokeplay and ruthless shenanigans in the ongoing T20 World Cup. She is being tipped as the “next big thing”, “rockstar”, “superstar”. Where Shafali eventually ends up is something that remains to be seen, but for a moment, let us savour the sight of watching a 16-year-old prodigiously talented girl realize her dream in front of the entire world.
SportsInfo offers cricket, soccer, kabaddi, tennis, badminton, racing, basketball and other sports news, articles, videos, live coverage & live scores, player rankings & team rankings. Also, offers minute details of any match along with live commentary.
- ‘It will be lovely if you ask us this question on an England, New Zealand or Australia tour’ – Virat Kohli on ongoing pitch debate
- ‘There is no issue with skill or headspace’ – Virat Kohli on Kuldeep Yadav’s exclusion from Playing XI
- When and Where to Watch India vs England, Live Streaming, Match Preview, Timings, and Pitch Report for 4th Test
- IPL 2021: Mohali to not host matches owing to the ongoing Farmers protest in Punjab
- Sanjay Manjrekar recalls an unfortunate incident when Geoffrey Boycott chose Anil Kumble’s performance over him