“My aim is to learn from big cricketers like Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry, ” says Shafali Verma

Shafali Verma’s journey from the fields of Haryana to playing cricket across the world has been nothing less than breathtaking. Idolizing the master blaster Sachin Tendulkar, the swashbuckling opening bat has so far, broken one record of her idol and that is becoming the youngest Indian to score an international half-century. She also became the youngest Indian cricketer to play across all three formats.

 

© Photo by MONEY SHARMA/AFP via Getty Images
© Photo by MONEY SHARMA/AFP via Getty Images

 

“In my childhood, we went to watch Sachin sir. I love his batting. Our family loves him. I love his timing, how he approaches cricket. He’s a legend,” said Shafali Verma, the new entrant in Sydney Sixers’ camp for WBBL |07.

Just like many other girls in India, Shafali started playing cricket with boys. As a child, she had to cut off all her hair to disguise herself as a boy in order to play cricket. “I asked my father if I could go on the boys’ tour. I said I was fine to go and it was so good for me … I got man of the match and man of the series,” she said. Shafali’s father Sanjeev Verma has always supported his daughter’s cricket dream. “No-one knew she was a girl because we [cut her hair like a boy]. They saw she plays well against men who can bowl at 130-140kph,” he told the ABC from India.

“It was so difficult starting to play with the boys. I just backed myself and I knew playing with the boys would really help me playing against girls. I am playing here in Australia because of that practice. The boys have a lot of speed, but playing in Australia there are so many good [women] bowlers here. They bowl just like the men,” she said.

Shafali’s family has been her pillar of strength. She said, “In the morning, at midnight — whenever I asked my father to practice with me, he’d always wake up and take me. It’s been such good backing from my family. I am so thankful to them.”

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Shafali Verma
Shafali Verma

 

Despite her family’s modest financial background, her father encouraged her to take up the sport. “In 2016 a man stole all of the money I had saved for the children. He ran away with it all and I only had 280 rupees ($5) left. I still did not stop my children from playing cricket. I collected money here and there for her cricket academy. I have always supported Shafali and always will. From eight years old, I saw her style of hitting the ball. I started playing with her in the morning and the evenings. She was playing cricket 6 am to 11 pm,” her father said.

Her father added, “There was a cricket ground near our house. The cricket academy boys would leave old worn balls there and Shafali [would] go down at night and collect them. One day she was given an old pair of torn batting gloves. [While] playing, she would never let anyone see her gloves were torn up.”

This year she made her WBBL debut. “It is very good for me to come in to the WBBL. My aim is to learn from every innings, enjoy myself and learn from the big cricketers like Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry, to be playing with the world’s best. I can’t say in words how good it feels for me,” Shafali said.

Sydney Sixers coach Ben Sawyer is just as pleased to have Verma on board. “One of our motto’s is to play really attacking cricket. She lives and breathes that the way she plays the game and she’s really dynamic in the field. The teenager is so good she’s opening alongside Alyssa Healy, bumping Ellyse Perry down the order. We want to strengthen the middle order. To have someone of Shafali’s skills up front meant we could drop Ellyse down. That middle order is world class so we are really happy with that,” Sawyer said.

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This article is a summarized excerpt of the original article published on ABC Net

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