A couple of years ago at the Women’s T20 World Cup, Shafali Verma was the talk of the town. The teenager, who had only made her debut in 2019, was treating each bowler she faced with disdain and was showcasing the kind of conviction usually associated with a seasoned campaigner.
Throughout that tournament, Shafali provided excellent starts for the Indian women’s cricket team. For a large chunk of the competition, she batted alongside Smriti Mandhana. Yet, at times, she managed to overshadow her more illustrious teammate, highlighting how exceptionally talented she was. ipl fantasy is here .
Her stock, as far as T20 cricket is concerned, hasn’t dropped. If anything, she has surveyed the franchise cricket world and has conquered whatever challenge has been kept in front of her. In T20Is, she hasn’t set the world alight and averages only 25. But her strike rate, which hovers around 141 is the best in the business.
ODI cricket, though, hasn’t exactly gone to plan for Shafali. It took India nearly two years to trust Shafali with a role at the top of the order. The right-handed batter only made her debut against England at Bristol. Unfortunately, she has not been able to repay the team management’s faith — denoted by an average of 23.63 and a strike rate of 75.14.
Recently, too, she has only shown glimpses of the potential she has. Against New Zealand, she notched up a delightful half-century in the third ODI. In the remaining games, however, she failed to cross 25, her next highest score being 24. She was also dismissed for a duck against the West Indies in India’s second warm-up game and didn’t look in great rhythm against South Africa either.
Thus, on form, there isn’t a lot to prompt India to stick with Shafali at the top of the order, especially with the alternatives at their disposal. Under ordinary circumstances, it would be a pretty easy decision too, considering Shafali is very inexperienced and might find it tough to handle the pressure of a World Cup.
But these yardsticks don’t apply to a cricketer of her ilk. While India have only been treated to fleeting glances of her brilliance, there is no denying that she provides impetus at the top of the order — something India have lacked in the past couple of years.
The biggest challenge for Shafali at this World Cup could be identifying a requisite tempo for herself. In the shortest format, she blazes away at a million miles per hour, striking at more than 140. A strike rate of 75.14 in ODIs, however, indicates that she is struggling to choose her moments to attack.
At times, she has been too eager to transfer the pressure onto the bowlers. On other occasions, she has got so bogged down that an ugly swipe across the line has become inevitable.
Yet, whenever she has gotten going, it has seemed as if Shafali is indeed the final piece in India’s ODI jigsaw. Not just because she can rip bowling attacks to shreds, but also because she is a genuine match-winner.
So, India are in a bit of a catch-22 situation. They know what Shafali is capable of but aren’t certain if she can be backed throughout a high-pressure event such as the World Cup. From India’s perspective, it is imperative that she is given the platform and the backing to succeed.
Almost everyone in the cricketing community knows the destruction she can cause with the willow. The onus, however, is on Shafali to prove that she can inflict such damage consistently. Most teenagers, especially with a middling ODI record, wouldn’t warrant such faith.
Shafali, though, has a spark to her batting — a spark that India would hope gets converted into a raging fire at the Women’s World Cup. And, of course, provides them with the momentum they crave at the top of the order.