The women’s national selection committee sprang a surprise by naming Shafali Verma, 18, as the captain of India’s U-19 women’s team for the inaugural edition of the U-19 Women’s T20 World Cup, to be played in South Africa from January 14 next year.
Nineteen-year-old Richa Ghosh, Shafali’s teammate in the senior women’s team, has also been named in the side. Shafali and Richa are eligible to play in the U-19 World Cups, as per the guidelines set by the International Cricket Council (ICC). But ever since the U-19 players started training earlier this year, neither Richa nor Shafali was part of the Indian camp as they were busy with their international commitments with the senior team.
While Shafali played in the senior women’s T20 World Cup final in 2020, Richa was part of the squad.
Since this is the inaugural U-19 women’s World Cup, Shafali and Richa’s experience will boost India’s chances. Both play regularly for the senior women’s national team.
Delhi girl Shweta Sehrawat, leading the India U-19 team in the ongoing T20 series against New Zealand, has been appointed vice-captain. Under the coaching of Nooshin Al Khadeer, the girls have done well in the quadrangular series and taken an unassailable 4-0 lead.
Hrishita Basu has been the regular wicketkeeper-batter for the U-19 side, and has proved effective down the order. However, with Richa in the ranks, there will be a toss-up between the two.
In the series against New Zealand, India fielded Soumya Tiwari and Shweta as the openers. Gongadi Trisha, who was promoted for the fourth game on Sunday, top-scored with 39. But Shafali’s arrival means the batting order will have to be tweaked, given that she will open the innings in South Africa. It means either Shweta or Soumya will have to bat down the order.
However, with just a month left for the tournament, there is not much time for chopping and changing. But with the Neetu David-led selection committee - which watched all four games against New Zealand in Mumbai - pulling off yet another surprise, the team management will have plenty to ponder over the next few weeks.
Once the New Zealand series gets over on Tuesday, the girls will have a camp in Bengaluru before flying out to South Africa. Before the World Cup, the girls will feature in a five-match T20 series against South Africa U-19 from December 27.