SHAFALI VERMA, 16 years ago, on the 28th of January, a girl was born in Rohtak, Haryana in India, when her ecstatic parents chose to name her Shafali- meaning a beautiful flower.
More than a decade later, this name has become synonymous in the cricketing world, and the young 16 year old, a feisty and fiery teen, has broken all records and become the number 1 T20 batsman in the world.
This dream that she so carefully built was born in 2013, when she witnessed Sachin Tendulkar play his final Ranji Trophy match against Haryana and score a farewell 79. Born in a conservative state of India, she faced rejection from cricket academies who refused to enrol her on account of her gender. Undeterred, she cut her hair short and with the help of her supportive father, disguised as a boy to play for her passion, earning her due as she was named ‘man of the series’ in a tournament where she played under her brother’s name, who had fallen ill that time.
Her performance shone and at the tender age of 15, she received her India call-up vs South Africa, where all eyes fell upon her, as her fearless attitude and confident stance won people over. In the 4th T20I, she scored a blazing 33-ball 46, leaving spectators gawking at her strike rate which seemed unlikely for Women’s cricket.
Two months later, her fine form was displayed against West Indies, as two brisk fifties helped her become the youngest Indian to score a half century in an International match, breaking a 30 year old record of none other than Sachin Tendulkar- the man she idolized the most.
Gaining praise from all around her, Verma was no doubt India’s best hope in the recently concluded T20 World Cup too, where she once again claimed history by becoming the youngest player to play in a World Cup final. Even though India failed to get their hands on the coveted trophy, it was Shafali’s performance that stood out exceptionally. She scored 163 runs in 5 innings, at a gawking strike rate of 158, and with her arrival, even opening partner Smriti Mandhana who was always known for hitting hard has chosen to take a back seat and claim the role of an anchor.
Becoming a T20 favourite in no time for India, Verma has even helped popularize Women’s cricket in India and brought viewership to a new high. Sanjay Bangar, former Indian Cricketer, said “Shafali Verma has provided fresh perspective to how women’s T20 can be played,” and other than him, various cricketing legends like Brett Lee, Tendulkar and many more have poured praise over the teenager, and we can expect many more accolades coming her way in the future.
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