At just 16 years of age, the young Shafali Verma was the heartbeat of the entire nation as the Indian Women’s team made it to the finale of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020. Her bold shots and aggressive batting play was one of the highpoints in the tournament which was eventually won by Australia.
In a team which already has households name such as Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur, Verma made a name for herself and left her peer far behind with her batting and even climbed to the top of the batting rankings for batswomen.
Having being able to make a name for herself, and at the biggest stage no less, Shafali is now keen on improving her all-round game and help team India a fearless force. The Indian women’s team made it to their maiden finals of the world cup, however, the favourites, Australia, managed to out-wit India and take the title.
Shafali said, “Just didn’t go our way that day (in the final). But sports is all about winning and losing. There will be other opportunities that will go our way. What happened we cannot change, but what will happen is in our hands and we will not leave any stone unturned as we look to be the best in the business,”.
The 16-year-old right-handed batswoman enjoyed a prolific time with her bat in her hand as she scored 163 runs with a strike rate of 158.25 and an average of 32.60 was the best amongst everybody else. Shafali said that these figures gave her confidence, but, she regretted not being able to win the trophy for the country and the team.
She said, “My job is to go out there and score runs and put India in an advantageous position. It obviously feels good when people appreciate your performance, but the trophy in the hand would have felt so much better,”.
As of now, the entire country is under a 21 day lockdown to combat the spread of the deadly Coronavirus, but this is not stopping Shafali from working on her fitness and is following the module she has been given by the Haryana Cricket Association (HCA). She said that she has been working hard on her fitness and added that “t helps that HCA has given us customised fitness charts keeping in mind the areas we need to work on. With us staying indoors at this point in time, the chart further helps as it has workouts planned in a way that we can easily do them at home and don’t need to go to a gym,”.
Even sessions with a sports psychologist have been organised by the HCA which is appreciated by Verma saying it is paramount that there are people who are looking after the needs in such hard times. She explains that “At these times, a lot of negative thoughts can seep into the mind. But speaking to the sports psychologist helped a lot. The motivation has helped stay positive in these tough times,”.
She added that “the support of Ashwani sir (coach), HCA and Baseline Ventures (talent management company) has really helped. Signing up with them has helped relieve a lot of pressure off my father who has been an integral part of my journey”.
She recalls that the reason why India made it to the finals of the T20 World Cup 2020 is not only because of the mix of young talent and experienced players but also because there were no egos in the dressing room. She said, “You know, there is nothing like seniors will speak and juniors have to listen or things like that. It is a very relaxed atmosphere and in fact not just seniors like Harmanpreet Kaur or Smriti Mandhana, everyone is looking to push the other the extra mile. And we have a really amazing coach in W.V. Raman sir,”.
She adds that “The best part about Raman sir is that he always has solutions ready and helps out whenever we are stuck. If there is an issue I am facing, I can always go up to him and get clarity on how to work my way out. He just has a brilliant mind and can easily instil confidence”.
The team was briefed to play their natural game, and Shafali formed an explosive partnership with Mandhana at the top order, the 16th-year-old prodigy said, “We would keep it simple. If there is a bad ball, it must be hit and there are no two ways about it. So, when I get a bad ball, I hit it and the same works for her. And when we get a good ball, we try and steal a single out of it. Nothing beats staying true to your game. Trying to curb your natural instincts don’t work I feel,”.
Shafali can be called a crucial element of the Indian Women’s team now and she hopes that she would keep her batting aggressive to give the team the needed good start in the matches. She says, “Win more games for India. I should be able to put India in a position of strength when I go out to bat. The goal will always be to contribute to India’s success,”.