Mithali Raj is to lead the ODI team, Harmanpreet Kaur to captain the T20Is, and a new addition to the 15-member squads prepping for upcoming series is 15-year-old Shafali Verma. Shafali is replacing the veteran Raj as she announced retirement from T20Is. This Rohtak-born teenage cricketer has been inspired by Sachin 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. 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.

The Board of Control For Cricket In India (BCCI) announced the 15-member squads for first 3-T20 International (T20Is) and One-Day International (ODIs) for the upcoming series against South Africa on Thursday. “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 told PTI.

“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

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

Key Takeaways:

  • 15-year-old Shafali Verma is replacing the veteran Mithali Raj after she announced retirement from T20Is. Raj will still lead the ODI team. She decided to quit T20 Internationals after a career spanning 89 matches
  • BCCI announced the 15-member squads for first 3-T20Is and ODIs for the upcoming series against South Africa. Shafali was chosen for her hard-hitting prowess
  • Shafali was selected following a brilliant performance in the Women’s T20 challenge
  • 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

Who is Shafali Verma?

Shafali is now one of the youngest players to be picked for Indian team. She hails from Rohtak and started off her career only five years ago. In a short span, she has already played three seasons for Haryana.

The hours she spends in training involves flipping tyres in her native. She was strategically chosen for the team as Shafali’s hard-hitting techniques is what the women’s T20 team needs right now.

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

“I was expecting this call-up to be honest. I had done well in domestic cricket and also in that big tournament in Jaipur. The recent camp at NCA also went well for me. So, yes I was hopeful,” The Haryana batter said who learnt the ropes at an academy in Rohtak.

“I was expecting this call-up to be honest. I had done well in domestic cricket and also in that big tournament in Jaipur. The recent camp at NCA also went well for me. So, yes I was hopeful,”

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

READ: Mithali Raj To Write Her Memoir

Tendulkar was her inspiration

Legendary Sachin Tendulkar was one big reason she chose the sport. Her father, a jeweller by profession, was also a biggest motivator who never stopped supporting her goals. “My papa always loved the game, he wanted to pursue it but could not do that. He thought he could fulfil his cricketing dream through me. He took me to the nearby academy and I did not look back from there on. Now my five year siblings also want to play for cricket. My elder brother also plays,” she said.

So, what is her favourite shot?

“Stepping out to the spinners and hitting them for a straight six,” she said.

Who is her favourite players in the Indian women’s team

Shafali says: “Mithali di (Mithali Raj) and Harman di (Harmanpreet Kaur).

“I met all the players recently at the NCA. I didn’t get to spend time with Harman di but Mithali di gave me confidence and told me to keep my head strong,” she added.

The T20I series begins in Surat on September 24, and the three ODIs to be played in Baroda, starting October 9.

Feature Image Credit: The Hans India

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