Shafali Verma: Watch out for this youngster!

Shafali Verma raising her helmet and bat

Here is a quiz question for all the cricket buffs. Who is India’s youngest cricketer to score an international half century? Give up. Well, here is a small hint — the name of the cricketer starts with the letter ‘S’. Most of you may have guessed it as Sachin Tendulkar and if you have done so, let me put it right and straight; you guessed it all wrong! The correct name is that of a woman cricketer or perhaps more correctly a girl cricketer named Shafali Verma.

Sachin Tendulkar was 16 years and 216 days when he became the youngest Indian cricketer to score an international half century on scoring 59 runs in a Test match against Pakistan in 1989. Thirty years later, Shafali Verma improved the record on two counts; she was only 15 years and 285 days when she scored 73 runs against the West Indies. She fell short by just 18 days in touching the international record of UAE’s Kavisha Egodage who was 15 years and 267 days when she had scored an unbeaten 57 against Malaysia in January 2019.

An international newspaper referred to Shafali as a ‘tomboy’. If she is actually one, then there is every reason for her to be one! Brought up in a state which is notorious for its alarming female ratio and where girls are seldom encouraged to participate in outdoor games, Shafali had to be passed off as a boy to start her cricketing career.

Born on 28 January 2003, Shafali made her international debut in a T20 match against South Africa at Surat on 24 September 2019. India won the match thanks to the bowling magic of Deepti Sharma (3 for 8) but it wasn’t a debut that Shafali would ever like to look back on as she faced just four balls and failed to open her international account. However, it did not take long for Shafali to prove her real mettle as in the very next series against the West Indies she did more than what was required to be adjudged as the Player of the Series and all that before having turned sweet sixteen.

The series against the West Indies was a warning to other cricketing nations that their bowlers were destined to face an Indian carnage in the near future. Smriti Mandhana of India has already established herself as a hard-hitter at the opening slot and already named as the ICC’s woman Player of the Year and now she has another hard-hitting teenager to give her company in the opening slot. The West Indies became the first team to suffer when in the very first T20 match Shafali scored 73 runs to outshine her senior partner Smriti who finished with an individual score of 67. In the process, the opening pair put up 143 runs for the first wicket which is a new Indian women’s T20I record. The Indian team went on to finish the innings with a score of 185 for 4 which is the highest-ever score put up against the West Indies in any T20I.

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Gp. Capt. Achchyut Kumar
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Gp. Capt. Achchyut Kumar

Gp Capt Achchyut Kumar has been associated with The Teenager Today for more than 50 years; initially as a reader and later as a contributor on varied topics. Having worked in the Indian Air Force and in India’s oldest company, Forbes & Company Limited, he is now practising as a lawyer in Nainital High Court.