ICC Women’s T20 World Cup: Shafali Verma key to India’s WC success
Dancing down the track and smashing Ellyse Perry, the spearhead of Australia’s bowling attack, for an overhead six cannot be easy; especially in the very first over of the innings. Shafali Verma—at 16 years of age—did just that at the Junction Oval in Melbourne, during the recently concluded Tri-Nations T20 final.
Even though she was dismissed soon after, Verma’s match-winning 28-ball 49 in the previous match showed the Indian team management just what the teenage opener from Rohtak is made of. That day, openers Verma and Smriti Mandhana helped India chase down Australia’s daunting target of 173 runs, in turn overshadowing Ashleigh Gardener’s 93 off 57 balls.
While the world is now quite used to Mandhana’s class, Verma too has begun making her mark on the world scene, after arriving as a 15-year old and scoring an international fifty at that age—the youngest in the women’s game to do so.
Ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia, India will hope that their top order of Verma and Mandhana comes good as their tweaked middle-order has failed to deliver in the recent months. “Shafali is a great prospect for India but at the same time she has to be a bit responsible,” says former India batsman Jaya Sharma. “The fact that she is ready to take charge against quick bowlers shows how confident she is at 16.”
Sharma feels that India’s success at the World Cup hinges on the openers and No.3 Jemimah Rodrigues.
“Shafali and Smriti can give great starts, while Jemimah has done well at No.3 and plays spin well too,” she adds. “Smriti has been the most consistent batter for India. Her role will be very crucial for India’s success in this World Cup. And her experience at T20 Leagues like WBBL and England’s Super League will come in handy.”
Captain Harmanpreet Kaur, who took the 50-over World Cup in 2017 by storm with her innings of 171 against Australia, has been too cautious with the bat in the lead up to the T20 World Cup. And that will probably be cause for concern for the Indian think tank. The 30-year-old has not been her usual aggressive self while batting, but former India captain Anjum Chopra believes it is nothing to worry about.
“Harman does understand her batting role very well. As a captain she does have a lot on her plate. But I am sure she will return to her natural game in the World Cup,” says Chopra. “She is an impact cricketer in T20s. With Deepti Sharma batting after her, Harman should play her natural game, and be a finisher. If Veda Krishnamurthy or the youngster Richa Ghosh can also contribute, India’s batters are going to be a force to reckon with.”
With Shikha Pandey being the only experienced bowler in the pace department, India will rely on their spinners—leg-spinner Poonam Yadav and left-arm spinners Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Radha Yadav—to defend their totals. “India is definitely more dependent on their batting than bowling in this World Cup,” adds Chopra. “Batting has always been India’s strength and the onus continues to be on them.”
India are placed in Group A with Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. They open their World Cup campaign by taking on the hosts in Sydney on Friday.