Indian opener Shafali Verma has scored an unbeaten 89 in the Women’s T20 Challenger Trophy final to guide India C to an eight-wicket win over India B at Cuttack on Friday (January 10).The 15-year-old’s hard-hitting batting technique and always-targeting-boundary prowess made it easy work for India C to chase the 132-run target that they had been handed by India B after they won the toss and opted to bat first.

Playing for India C, women’s team, Verma knocked some brilliant shots that included 15 fours and 2 sixes. India B’s bowlers ended their campaign in just 15.2 overs thanks to her batting. Heavyweights Smriti Mandhana (3) and Jemimah Rodrigues (10) disappointed by failing to hit big scores, but them Verma took over and changed the course of the game. Only a 22-ball 43 from Pooja Vastrakar added some respectability to the total as India B had slumped to 79-6 in the 16th over and looked like they might struggle to cross the 100-run mark. Manali Dakshini was the pick of the bowlers for India C, taking 3-15 in her four overs.

Last year, Verma created history by becoming the youngest Indian cricketer to score a half-century in international cricket, surpassing Sachin Tendulkar’s 30-year-old record.

READ: Mithali Raj To Write Her Memoir

Who is Shafali Verma?

Shafali is now one of the youngest players in the Indian cricket team. She hails from Rohtak and started her career only five years ago. In a short span, she has already played three seasons for Haryana. She was strategically chosen for the team because she can hit the ball hard and that is what the women’s T20 team needed.

Key Takeaways:

  • 15-year-old Indian opener Shafali Verma scored an unbeaten 89, in the Women’s T20 Challenger Trophy final to guide India C to an eight-wicket win over India B at Cuttack
  • Earlier, Shafali Verma became the youngest Indian cricketer to score a half-century in international cricket, surpassing Sachin Tendulkar’s 30-year-old record
  • The 15-year-old also became the second-youngest player to score a half-century in T20I format — men or women
  • The Haryana-girl played under Mithali for Team Velocity in the women’s T20 Challenge
  • Her favourite shot is stepping out to the spinners and hitting them for a straight six, and her favourite players in the Indian women’s team are Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur

After her debut in T20Is replacing  Mithali Raj, when she announced her retirement,  a few people from the industry thought her to be just a young cricketer who would take time to blend in. To their surprise, Shafali surpassed Tendulkar’s record. Again, in the second T20I against West Indies last year, Shafali batted exceptionally and ensured a clinical run chase to help India take a 2-0 lead in the series.

The 15-year-old also became the second-youngest player to score a half-century in T20I format — men or women.

Verma first came into limelight when she performed ingeniously in 2018-19 during the Inter-State Women’s T20 tournament where she hammered 128 off 56 balls against Nagaland. She also impressed the selectors when she made 34 off 31 balls in the Women’s T20 Challenge in Jaipur earlier this year. She smashed a 34 as an opener against Smriti Mandhana-led Trailblazers.

Breaking Tendulkar’s record

Shafali is just 15, but the Rohtak-born teenage cricketer outclassed legend Sachin Tendulkar, who had notched up his maiden Test fifty at 16 years and 214 days. Shafali has been inspired by Tendulkar’s final Ranji Trophy game at Lahli ground in Haryana. The rookie made a career in cricket after watching his brilliant performance and knock out sixes. “Jitne log Sachin sir ko andar dekhne ke liye khade the, utne hee bahar the (There were as many people outside the stadium as inside to get a glimpse of Tendulkar). Only then I realised how big a deal is to be a cricketer in India, especially when you are revered like Sachin sir,” Shafali had told PTI.

“I can never forget that day. My cricketing journey started from there,” she had said after getting the news of her selection for the T20 series against South Africa last year.

Her rare talent was spotted during the Women’s T20 challenge earlier this year where she played under Mithali for Team Velocity. Raj, on the other hand, decided to quit T20 Internationals after a career spanning 89 matches.

She also earned a spot in the 25-member month-long NCA camp for the Senior Women’s side in Bengaluru in June  2019 and has now been fast-tracked to the national side.

Read More Stories By Ria Das

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