- 15-year-old Shafali Verma will be replacing Mithali Raj in India's T20 squad against South Africa.
- Raj announced her retirement from WT20I earlier this week.
- The T20I series will be held between September 14 and October 4.
When veteran cricketer Mithali Raj announced her retirement from T20 cricket, not many were surprised. Afterall the batswoman is 36-year-old, and it has to start somewhere, right? However, what surprised everyone was her replacement- a 15-year-old youngster from Rohtak.
But don’t be fooled by her age, Shafali Verma is made for the big stuff.
“She is going to be a superstar for India probably in a year or so; I think she will break into the Indian team.” Danielle Wyatt, a part of England’s 2017 World Cup-winning team, had expressed after seeing the girl bat at the nets during the T20 Women’s Challenge in Jaipur.
The Haryana girl received her maiden call-up from BCCI to India’s squad earlier yesterday for the T20 series against South Africa scheduled to be held between September 14 and October 4.
“It is like a dream coming true. My father dreamt that I play for India,” an excited Verma said, “He always wanted to become a cricketer but could not due to family pressures. He has worked hard on my game.”
An attacking opener by trade, Verma got hold of a cricket bat at the age of eight.
“My brother, who is a leg-spinner and my father would take me to a local ground for nets,” she said. “Both would bowl for long hours, and I would hit the ball hard. That’s where I learnt this rule— if the ball is there to be hit, then it should be hit hard.”
Her Sehwag-esque hard-hitting brand of batting soon started turning heads, and before she knew, Shafali was selected for Haryana’s U 19 team. She was just thirteen at the time.
“Sachin Tendulkar is my role-model”
In 1989, a 16-year-old batsman, made his maiden Test tour (to Pakistan). The rest is history!-- Advertisement --
In 2019, 30 years later, a 15-year-old batter Shafali Verma has been included in the Indian T20I women's squad. History beckons!
— Mohandas Menon (@mohanstatsman) September 6, 2019
That very year, her resolve to become a cricketer strengthened after Shafali watched Sachin Tendulkar play his last Ranji game in Lahli near Rohtak.
“It was unreal to watch him play from close quarters; he is my inspiration and my role model,” the budding cricketer said.
Playing for Haryana earlier in February this year, Varma hit 128 off just 56 balls, the third-highest score in women’s T20. That and many similar performances earned her a call-up in the T20 Women’s Challenge. Varma was benefited by the exposure she got in the competition. She featured thrice there.
“Danny (Wyatt) was really encouraging during the tournament. I keep talking to her. She likes the way I approach the game,” she said. “I was just observing the seniors on and off the field. I learnt a lot. Mithali didi told me to be a bit patient and try to play 10-12 overs in a T20 game.
“I know the T20 World Cup in Australia is around the corner. I would hope to make a mark and become a permanent member of the Indian team.”