HomeSportsCricket"The Next Tendulkar!": Who's the 15-year-old that replaced Mithali Raj?

“The Next Tendulkar!”: Who’s the 15-year-old that replaced Mithali Raj?

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  • 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.

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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.

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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”

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.”

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