Women who inspire us: Shafali Verma

On this women's day, we take a look at the journey of India's latest batting sensation Shafali Verma, who rose through the ranks and went on to turn heads.

Shafali Verma has given India some fine starts with her brilliant batting.   -  AFP

Shafali Verma doesn’t like to talk much when she is at the nets. Rather, she lets her willow do the talking. That’s how it has always been for the 16-year-old.

A rather bubbly young girl off the field, Shafali gets into the groove every time she walks in to bat. And her hard work has paid off as she has taken the world by storm with her batting brilliance.

She is just six months old in the international circuit, but Shafali has made her presence felt in style. 

In September 2019, she broke into India’s senior women’s cricket team and made her debut in a T20I against South Africa.

 

A few weeks later, she travelled to the West Indies and became the youngest Indian to score an international half-century - surpassing a 30-year-old record held by Sachin Tendulkar, who was 16 when he made his maiden Test half-century.

And now, as India chases its maiden T20 World Cup title, Shafali has been the highest run-getter for her side, with 163 runs from five innings to her kitty.

READ: Women’s cricket gets its due

The Journey 

While the world is in awe of her, Shafali’s story has been a roller-coaster one.

A big fan of Sachin Tendulkar, Shafali was barely nine years old, when she visited Chaudhary Bansi Lal Cricket Stadium in Lahli for the first time. 

It was a wintry November morning in 2013 and Mumbai was playing Haryana in a Ranji Trophy group fixture. For Shafali and her father, Sanjeev Verma, the match was special as they got to see Tendulkar bat.

All this while, Sanjeev had watched every innings of Tendulkar on television and as the icon visited the small town in Haryana for his final domestic fixture, Sanjeev took her daughter along.

Shafali Verma along with Sachin Tendulkar.   -  TWITTER

 

Back then, Shafali had little idea that this particular match would change her life.

“Sachin sir is my idol. When I saw him for the first time in 2013, I decided to chase my dreams. It was not easy, but I did not give up,” Shafali told Sportstar.

The youngster, who now opens the batting for India along with Smriti Mandhana, remembers how the entire family had to struggle to ensure that she pursued her dreams. 

Late in 2013, Shafali got enrolled in the Shree Ram Narain Cricket Academy, but was not allowed to feature in the male-only tournaments.“The organisers felt that she would get hurt,” Sanjeev said.

A die-hard cricket fan, Sanjeev runs a small jewellery shop. It was never easy to let Shafali continue with her game, but the father did not give up.

“My father wanted to be a cricketer, but nobody supported him. So, when I decided to play, he ensured that there were obstacles. I would train under him initially, and slowly things got better,” Shafali said.

There was a time when she had chopped off her hair and disguised herself as her brother to play cricket with the boys. 

“She just wanted to play. So, she cut her hair and featured in local tournaments. Many did not approve of it. But she never lost hope,” Sanjeev said. It was this determination that got her going.

And this women’s day, we celebrate Shafali for her inspiring journey - from playing in the bylanes of Rohtak to featuring in a T20 World Cup final in Melbourne. Truly inspiring!

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