Important for Shafali to understand what she is doing, says Thirushkamini

Shafali Verma hits out against Australia A. © Getty Images

A BCCI Grade C contract, T20 World Cup debut in just six months of international cricket and a top spot – however fleeting –  in the ICC Women’s T20I batter’s rankings – 16-year-old Shafali Verma couldn’t have asked for a better start in such a short space of time. A relatively shy girl, Shafali doesn’t like to talk much, but rather lets her willow do that talking when she walks out to bat.

According to many, the Rohtak-born cricketer has brought a freshness to the women’s game in the country and reminds of now-retired men’s cricketer Virender Sehwag, because of the attacking approach that she brings to the group. The longer she stays at the crease, the greater is the danger for the opposition.

But as much as her blazing starts have helped India win games, her inability to capitalise on those has also drawn a few questions. “I think it’s important for her to understand what she is doing,” MD Thirushkamini, India’s first World Cup centurion, told Women’s CricZone. “Once you set yourself into the international circuit, it is important to start enjoying how you feel, to enjoy her batting rather than worrying more about to take the innings forward.”

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Making her India debut in September 2019 following a successful Women’s T20 Challenge, Shafali quickly found her stride and has become a nightmare for many in such a short time. Her impeccable hitting during the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia in February-March underlines the above fact. In five matches she played, Shafali scored 163 runs to finish fifth among batter in the tournament with scores of 29, 39, 46, 47 and 2.

In her short international career to date, Shafali has played 19 T20Is and been able to register double digits on 11 occasions, which includes a couple of half-centuries. She was dismissed on the 40s four times and on 30 or more twice.

“She has to really look forward to playing longer, but that should obviously be running in the back of (her) mind and not hamper her batting style as such,” feels Thirushkamini. “I think if she tries to restrict herself and play longer, that will also restrict her mind instead of going aggressive after the bowler, which is not something we are looking at.”

With the 50-over World Cup not so far away in New Zealand next February, speculation has already begun about whether the teenager will likely find a spot in the ODI side that has a settled look to it.

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Asked what she feels about the selection, the left-hander skillfully dodged the question. “I am actually thrilled to see how she has been able to transform herself because it is important for any player to have a good debut like this on an international platform. It’s a beautiful start for any cricketer,” said the Tamil Nadu cricketer, who last played for India in 2017. “Even I am also curious to see how she transforms her career.”

Thirushkamini, who amassed a Test high-score of 192 in 2014, also feels that Shafali will realise how to take things forward as she plays more games. “That understanding for her will happen very naturally in the games to come. Few more years into the international circuit she will realise how to take things forward because she has to strike a balance between both,” she concluded.