Sachin Tendulkar made his debut at the tender age of 15 as he embarked on a journey to become the greatest cricket player of all time. Now, it appears history might be repeating itself, as a new teenager has taken centre stage and her name is Shafali Verma.
Like Tendulkar, Verma made her debut last year aged just 15, and has since played 19 T20 internationals for India, at an average of 27, including two fifties. Whilst these statistics alone are not record-breaking, what has been so impressive about Verma is not her accumulation of runs, but rather the manner in which she gets them. During the T20 World Cup earlier this year, Verma averaged a higher strike-rate than any other player in the competition and showed devastating power well beyond her years as she bludgeoned the most sixes- 9 in total of anyone in the tournament.
Her performances in Australia have put her third in the ICC’s International T20 Batting Rankings, less than 20 points behind Beth Mooney and Suzie Bates who occupy the top two positions. Though the omnipresent Mithali Raj continues to play the ODI format, Verma will no doubt fill the void left by the Indian captain when she retires.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about Verma at present is her ability to change the game in an instant. Her strike rate against Bangladesh alone was above 200, and her runs at the top of the order in each of the World Cup group matches were pivotal as India secured top spot in the group.
Despite steering her team to the World Cup final, Verma did show nervous signs in front of a packed out MCG crowd as Australia claimed their second consecutive title. Verma dropped player of the match Alyssa Healy on 9 and scored just 2 with the bat as India were comfortably beaten. Though Verma had to be consoled at the end of the game, this is still no doubt just the beginning of her international journey.
Speaking to Sky Sports, England captain Heather Knight said of Verma, “Shafali is a real talent, a scary one to have to captain against because of how destructive she is and how she seems to have no fear. She has learnt really quickly as well. She struggled a little bit against spin early on but seems to have found a way to counteract that and score even faster.”
India clearly have a superstar on their hands and Verma clearly has the attitude to reach the very top. India’s first World Cup silverware may still be alluding them, but with Verma in their ranks, this may not be too far round the corner.
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