If there is a bad ball, it must be hit: Shafali Verma
She might be all of 16, but India’s latest cricketing sensation Shafali Verma means business. Going into the World T20 in Australia as a youngster in the Indian team filled with heavyweights like Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana, Shafali stamped her authority to even rise to the top of the T20 rankings for batswomen during the tournament. But she says the journey has just begun.
After winning accolades for her performance in the World T20, Shafali said that the road ahead will only get steeper and she will look to rise to every challenge that comes her way in taking the women’s team to becoming world beaters.
“Just didn’t go our way that day. But sports is all about winning and losing. There will be other opportunities that will go our way. What happened we cannot change, but what will happen is in our hands and we will not leave any stone unturned as we look to be the best in the business,” she said.
But what about her own scintillating show that won her applause from present as well as former cricketers? She says the trophy would have felt much better.
“My job is to go out there and score runs and put India in an advantageous position. It obviously feels good when people appreciate your performance, but the trophy in the hand would have felt so much better,” she rued.
For a youngster to say this after scoring 163 runs in 5 games at a strike-rate of 158.25 says a lot about how she puts team performance over individual glory.
With the country under lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, Shafali is looking to work on her fitness as the Haryana Cricket Association has given the girls customised fitness routines.
“I have been working hard on my fitness and it helps that HCA has given us customised fitness charts keeping in mind the areas we need to work on. With us staying indoors at this point in time, the chart further helps as it has workouts planned in a way that we can easily do them at home and don’t need to go to a gym,” she smiled.
This apart, HCA also organised a session with sports psychologist and Shafali feels it was the need of the hour. “At these times, a lot of negative thoughts can seep into the mind. But speaking to the sports psychologist helped a lot. The motivation has helped stay positive in these tough times,” she explained.
“To be honest, the support of Ashwani sir (coach), HCA and Baseline Ventures has really helped. Signing up with them has helped relieve a lot of pressure off my father who has been an integral part of my journey.”
Coming back to the team, Shafali says that this unit doesn’t believe in any senior-junior divide and that helps. “You know, there is nothing like seniors will speak and junior have to listen or things like those. It is a very relaxed atmosphere and in fact not just seniors like Harmanpreet Kaur or Smriti Mandhana, everyone is looking to push the other the extra mile. And we have a really amazing coach in W.V. Raman sir,” she said.
“The best part about Raman sir is that he always has solutions ready and helps out whenever we are stuck. If there is an issue I am facing, I can always go up to him and get clarity on how to work my way out. He just has a brilliant mind and can easily instil confidence.”
So what was the general discussion when she went out to open with another explosive batswoman like Mandhana? For Shafali, it is all about playing one’s natural game.
“We would keep it simple. If there is a bad ball, it must be hit and there is no two ways about it. So, when I get a bad ball, I hit it and same works for her. And when we get a good ball, we try and steal a single out of it. Nothing beats staying true to your game. Trying to curb your natural instincts don’t work I feel,” she pointed.
Having won hearts with her performance in her maiden World T20, what is her next goal? For Shafali, the only goal is to win. “Win more games for India. I should be able to put India in a position of strength when I go out to bat. The goal will always be to contribute to India’s success,” she signed off.