'What could a girl do?' - At 15, Shafali Verma answers in style

In only her second international match, she smashed 46 off 33 balls to star in India’s 51-run win over South Africa in the fourth T20I.

Shafali made her international debut for India against South Africa in the T20I series.   -  AFP

Shafali Verma was nine when she made that short journey to Lahli from her home in Rohtak, along with her father. She wanted to see her idol, Sachin Tendulkar, playing in his last Ranji match.

The Master Blaster didn’t disappoint her. He smashed an unbeaten 79 in the second innings to guide Mumbai to a four-wicket victory against host Haryana. She came back home, determined wanting to play in front of such a crowd one day. A few days ago, her dream came true.

Plenty to cheer about

READ | Mithali Raj: Shafali can be the future for India

Not only did she play in front of a crowd of over 15,000 at the Lalbhai Contractor Stadium in Surat, she also gave them plenty to cheer about too. In only her second international match, she smashed 46 off 33 balls to star in India’s 51-run win over South Africa in the fourth T20I.

And she did it aged 15 — one year younger than what her idol was when he made his international debut. “I was determined to see off the opening overs and wanted to make a good score in the match,” Shafali told Sportstar at Surat a few days ago. “I want to play more such innings for India.”

At the age of nine, Shafali watched her idol Sachin Tendulkar play his final match in Ranji Trophy in her home town of Rohtak. Photo: Akhilesh Kumar

 

To play for India had been a dream all along for Shafali, who packs quite a bit of power into her shots. “I was hoping that I would get a chance in this series,” she said. “I had also felt that I could be selected for the Women’s T20 Challenge at Jaipur a few months ago.”

Stepping into spotlight

And it was at Jaipur’s Sawai Mansingh Stadium that she announced her arrival. She hit 34 off 31 deliveries, and was immediately heralded as a future star. “I enjoyed that experience at Jaipur,” she said. “Playing against foreigners and India seniors helped me greatly.”

Shafali caught the eyes of many while playing for Velocity in the Women’s T20 Challenge earlier this year. Photo: V.V. Krishnan

 

She said she loved playing alongside Mithali Raj for Velocity. “I am also happy that I have been part of the Indian team that had Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana,” she said. “Those three are great batters.”

READ | Shafali Verma, a Tendulkar fan, makes a mark in Women's T20 Challenge

Favourites

Among the batsmen, A.B. de Villiers is her favourite. “I also like Virat Kohli,” she said. “I have always had great respect for attacking batsmen, like Virender Sehwag.”

She had, of course, grown up watching Tendulkar. “The television would be switched off at our home when he got out,” she said. “My father and brother are also big cricket fans and used to play too.”

Shafali had to get her hair cut like a boy so that she could get into the local academy to train. Photo: AFP

 

But, the people in Rohtak were not enthused by the idea of a girl taking up cricket. “They would ask: what could a girl do?” she recalled. “I had long braids at that time; I chopped them off, and for a couple of months they probably did not realise that I was a girl as I trained with boys.”