Known for her hard-hitting batting technique and always-targeting-boundary prowess, the 16-year-old Indian opener Shafali Verma ​is now at the top spot in the ICC women’s T20 International rankings, riding on her stellar run at the ongoing T20 World Cup.

Back in 2013, Shafali Verma cheered for Sachin Tendulkar who was in Rohtak to play his last Ranji Trophy match against Haryana. She cheered for every run he scored and his batting style fascinated her. “After that game, she told me, I don’t want to play with a tennis ball anymore; I want to play leather ball cricket,” ​Shafali’s father Sanjeev Verma recallsSix years on, today fans are cheering for Shafali, the girl who shattered Tendulkar’s 30-year-old record.

Verma took over from New Zealand’s Suzie Bates, who had been the top batter since October 2018 after wresting the spot from West Indies captain Stafanie Taylor.

She is the second Indian after Mithali Raj to top the women’s T20 batting rankings. Verma is the third-highest scorer at the World Cup and has hit more sixes than anyone in the tournament so far.

Key Takeaways:

  • Shafali Verma on Wednesday rose to the top spot in the ICC women’s T20 International rankings, riding on her stellar run at the ongoing World Cup.
  • She has nine sixes, the most in the tournament’s group stage.
  • She took over from New Zealand’s Suzie Bates, who had been the top batter since October 2018 after wresting the spot from West Indian captain Stafanie Taylor.

Proud father

Talking about making her father proud, on the sidelines of the Women’s T20 Challenge in Jaipur, Verma told ESPNcricinfo that her goal is “to make papa proud when I start playing for India and, hopefully, he will be there for the first World Cup I play.”

“There was a time when people used to say I’m ruining my daughter’s life by making her play because they don’t expect girls to be in sports – Shafali Verma’s father, Sanjeev

Even though Harmanpreet Kaur-led team is incredible this year the team has consciously relied on individual brilliance from three players — Kaur, Verma and Smriti Mandhana.

“I used to score a lot of our runs in the last two or three years, especially in the power play, but now with Shafali coming in, she’s getting the runs in the way I do,” Mandhana said as Verma’s opening partner ahead of the group-stage match against New Zealand last week. “She’s made a huge impact and the team has become more balanced thanks to her.”

Shafali Verma, 16, Indian opener

  • Five-feet tall, Right-handed batswoman
  • 20I debut: 24 September 2019 v South Africa
  • Strike rate of 161
  • Third-highest scorer in the World Cup
  • World No. 1 women’s cricketer
  • Youngest To Win Player Of The Match

Also Read: Shafali Verma: India’s Youngest Shining Star Of Cricket

Craving for a century

Verma still has one more promise to fulfil, her father told ESPNcricinfo. “Before she left for the World Cup, she told me, ‘Papa, ik century toh lagaa ke aani hi hain [I must hit at least one century],” she promised her father.

“I’m not being unrealistic; I know her potential, perhaps the world has seen it too. Maybe that first World Cup fifty will also be her first World Cup hundred. Maybe it’s meant to happen when I get there.”

“Since the start of the World Cup, during my morning walks or on my way to my shop, strangers, neighbours, random passers-by have stopped me to say, ‘Kya Sanjeev bhai, aapki beti ne to mahilao ka cricket dekhne pe majboor kar diya [Your daughter has forced us to follow women’s cricket],” Sanjeev says. “There was a time when people used to say I’m ruining my daughter’s life by making her play because they don’t expect girls to be in sports. Bass, ghar ka kaam karwao, toh hi tum acche baap ho, warna bigaar raho ho beti ko [Just make them work at home, then you are a good father, otherwise you are spoiling your daughter].”

“I felt she’s got this gift, just timing the ball and hitting it a long way. Not many girls had that relatively, so I had to try to give her the best chance to develop it,” Sanjeev stated.

Read More Stories By Ria Das

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