Grit and determination behind Indian teen Shafali Verma’s rise to international cricket

As an eight-year-old, Shafali Verma watched her cricket idol Sachin Tendulkar in action for the first time in 2013 in the small town of Haryana, India.

The Indian legend was playing in the Ranji Trophy, a competition that Verma later entered by pretending to be a boy.

That moment turned out to be life changing. from the furthest stadium seats, the child declared to her father she’d never play cricket with a tennis ball, only leather from then on.

“In my childhood, we went to watch Sir Sachin,” new Sydney Sixers recruit Verma said.

In 2019, Verma was called up to the Indian women’s international team, debuting at just 15 years old.

Playing in the West Indies a few weeks later, she became the youngest Indian, male or female, to make an international half century, breaking a 30-year-old record held by her idol Tendulkar, who achieved the feat at 16.

Shafali Verma’s cricketing idol is the great Sachin Tendulkar. The Indian teenager has already taken one of his records.(Supplied: Sanjeev Verma)

That same year, Verma became the youngest player, male or female, to represent India in all three forms of international cricket.

Now the 17-year-old batting prodigy has joined the Sydney Sixers for her debut season in the Women’s Big Bash League.

“It is very good for me to come in to the WBBL,” Verma said. 

“My aim is to learn from every innings, enjoy myself and learn from the big cricketers like Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry, to be playing with the world’s best. 

“I can’t say in words how good it feels for me.”

While she looks right at home in the magenta pink, it’s a far cry from how she started playing cricket as a young girl growing up in rural India.

Verma had to cut off all her hair to disguise herself as a boy because of the lack of opportunities for girls to play cricket.

Her father, Sanjeev Verma, has always supported his daughter’s cricket dream.

A young Indian female cricketer plays a shot.
Shafali Verma cut her hair to play cricket with boys and proved she could cope with genuine pace bowling.(Supplied: Sanjeev Verma)

“No-one knew she was a girl because we [cut her hair like a boy]. They saw she plays well against men who can bowl at 130-140kph,” he told the ABC from India.

That practice of playing against men has helped develop Verma’s aggressive strokeplay.

“It was so difficult starting to play with the boys,” she said.

“I just backed myself and I knew playing with the boys would really help me playing against girls. I am playing here in Australia because of that practice,” she said.

“The boys have a lot of speed, but playing in Australia there are so many good [women] bowlers here. They bowl just like the men.”

There weren’t just gender barriers to cricket. Funding Verma’s training was also a huge struggle for her father, who runs a small jewellery store in India.

“There was a cricket ground near our house,” her father said.

“The cricket academy boys would leave old worn balls there and Shafali [would] go down at night and collect them.

“One day she was given an old pair of torn batting gloves.

[While] playing, she would never let anyone see her gloves were torn up.”

Money problems almost ended Verma’s cricket aspirations, but her father would not let that happen.

“In 2016 a man stole all of my money I had saved for the children,” Sanjeev Verma said.

“He ran away with it all and I only had 280 rupees ($5) left.

“I still did not stop my children playing cricket. I collected money here and there for her cricket academy.

“I have always supported Shafali and always will.”

Like many greats, tenacity is behind Verma’s success.

“From eight years old, I saw her style of hitting the ball,” he father said.

“I started playing with her in the morning and the evenings. She was playing cricket 6am to 11pm.”

Verma said she would be forever grateful for the support.

For women in India, playing sport, let alone professionally, is far from the norm, but the rise of Indian cricketers such as Verma is changing the status quo.

“Back then it was a bit different but now girls have started getting more support,” Sanjeev Verma said.

“It’s very nice to see girls playing and I am very proud of my daughter and I thank the BCCI for giving Shafali a chance to play in all three formats and for making mine and my daughter’s dream come true.”

Eight Indian marquee players have joined the WBBL this season. Left-arm spinner Radha Yadav is also with the Sixers, off-spinning all-rounder Deepti Sharma and Smriti Mandhana are with the Sydney Thunder, the Melbourne Renegades have batters Jemimah Rodrigues and Harmanpreet Kaur (India’s T20 captain), and the Brisbane Heat have welcomed keeper-bat Richa Ghosh and leg-spinner Poonam Yadav.


And Indian fans are captivated.

“Every player dreams of playing in the WBBL,” Sanjeev Verma said.

“There has been a lot of development of women’s cricket in India, which is very good for women.

“Thank you Australia and WBBL for helping girls here.

Sydney Sixers coach Ben Sawyer is just as pleased to have Verma on board.

“One of our motto’s is to play really attacking cricket. She lives and breathes that the way she plays the game and she’s really dynamic in the field,” Sawyer said.

The teenager is so good she’s opening alongside Alyssa Healy, bumping Ellyse Perry down the order.


“We want to strengthen the middle order,” Sawyer said.

“To have someone of Shafali’s skills up front meant we could drop Ellyse down.

“That middle order is world class so we are really happy with that.

The coach believes this year’s WBBL Indian signings have lifted the standard of the competition, which is now in its seventh season.

“They bring a really good energy to the group and a different style of cricket,” he said. 

“Smriti Mandhana and Deepti (Sharma) at the Thunder have the same attacking qualities. It’s a very free way of playing the game. Also the way Yadav is spinning the ball is really pleasing.”

WBBL07 features 59 matches, culminating in the final on November 27.

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button
%d bloggers like this: