At 16, Shafali Verma was India’s top scorer in her first T20 World Cup at senior age in 2020. Seven months earlier, at 15, she was the youngest to compete at a T20 International. And so she was caught up by Alyssa Healy, in the third ball of an unsuccessful chase while trying to set a limit, it was seen as just a day off for one of the most promising young cricketers.
Three years later, it should come as no surprise to see her lead India in the inaugural final of the U19 Women’s T20 World Cup. However, the journey since the 2020 World Cup has not been as smooth as many believed it would be for Shafali. Sunday is an opportunity for Shafali to bring back happy memories of an ICC event.
With over 2,000 runs in 74 games, Shafali has had a mixed run with the senior team. In T20Is, the format in which she has performed most, the explosive opener hit 487 runs in her first 19 games with a batting average of over 146 through to the 2020 finals in Melbourne.
Over the next 32 games, the batting average dropped to 127.83. While it performs slightly better than the shortest format on the ODIs, it was dropped for three consecutive games at last year’s World Cup.
As the most experienced player on the team, she had to lead the team at the U19 World Cup.
“Yes, I’ve played a lot of finals and seen everything,” said Shafali, who turned 19 on Saturday, on the eve of the final.
“It’s about going out and enjoying the game. I told my teammates, don’t stress, just give 100 percent without considering it a final. Just believe in yourself. It’s all in the past and can’t be restored. We’re determined to win the World Cup this time and we’re trying to improve day by day,” she added.
India suffered a defeat in the Super Six league where they lost to Australia after being eliminated for 87.
“We had nervous moments and couldn’t sleep thinking about whether or not we could reach the final… But we learned from the mistakes and here we are. Now we’re all very confident, clear of our roles. Everyone enjoys each other’s company and stays normal, we don’t think much. I may be older than a lot of them, but I told them, “we’re all basically the same, it’s about making everyone feel comfortable,” Shafali said.
In the semifinals, India recorded an eight-wicket win after their bowlers limited New Zealand to an under-par of 107/9.
India will face a strong side from England, who topped their Super Six group by winning all four games. They suffered a batting debacle in the semifinals against Australia when they were knocked out for 99 in 19.5 overs. But their bowling attack hit back to hold Australia to 96 in 18.4 overs.
Positive intention has been a keyword in English cricket of late. From Eoin Morgan’s White Ball Revolution to Brendon McCullum‘s Bazball Philosophy in Test Cricket. It had also rubbed off on the U19 side. “We came in as a group and as a coaching staff for the U19s to play with a positive attitude,” captain Grace Scrivens told Sky Sports. “That may have been influenced by high-level people, but we were all keen to make sure of the positive intention and mindset that we were showing.”
On the eve of the final, the English skipper spoke about the positive aspects. “It was incredible to be a part of (finale). It’s about resetting and going to the next game. We want to play with a positive attitude and play fearless cricket. I’m sure yesterday’s collapse won’t affect us,” Grace said.
Teams: (India): Shafali Verma, Shweta Sehrawat, Gongadi Trisha, Soumya Tiwari, Sonia Mehdiya, Richa Ghosh, Hrishita Basu, Titas Sadhu, Mannat Kashyap, Parshavi Chopra, Sonam Yadav, Shabnam, Falak Naz and Yashasri Soppadhandhi
(England): Grace Scrivens, Ellie Anderson, Hannah Bakers, Josie Groves, Liberty Heap, Niamh Holland, Ryana MacDonald-Gay, Emma Marlov, Charis Pavley, Davina Perrin, Lizzie Scott, Seren Smale, Sophia Smale, Alexa Stonehouse and Maddie Ward.
U19 Women’s T20 World Cup Final, Live on FanCode, Star Sports Network, 5:15 p.m