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  5. Shafali Verma: Living the dream, queen-like

Shafali Verma: Living the dream, queen-like

Averaging 40.25 with a blistering strike rate of 161, 16-year-old Shafali has been the heart and soul of India's batting throughout the four group matches and played a crucial role in the team's race to their maiden World T20 finale.

Aratrick Mondal Written by: Aratrick Mondal
New Delhi Published on: March 07, 2020 8:19 IST
Shafali Verma
Image Source : GETTY IMAGES

Shafali Verma

We have all dreamt about living life king/queen-like where the world cheers and worships you with every step you take. Now imagine, it to come true at an age when humans are more focussed, and some still confused, on what life might reserve for them in the future. But not for Shafali Verma. 

A year ago, she was just another 15-year-old kid hoping to make it big in the world of cricket and represent India just like her heroes. But fate has something precious reserved for him for she now heads to the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground as the world No.1 T20I batsman and a match away from realising the one single dream for every budding cricketer. 

A little over five-feet tall, Shafali has shown magnificent prowess in clearing the ropes with ease, grace and impressive footwork. Averaging 40.25  with a blistering strike rate of 161, the opener has been the heart and soul of India's batting throughout the four group matches and played a crucial role in the team's race to their maiden World T20 finale. 

India's hope and World T20 new revelation

In a team comprising the usually consistent Smriti Mandhana and India's premier big-hitter Harmanpreet Kaur, the 16-year-old kid has been the driving force for the team towards the three competitive 130-plus total they have racked up in the matches they batted first while comfortably chasing down 114 in the final group-stage tie against Sri Lanka. And Shafali has gotten better with the scores - 29, 39, 46, and 47 - through the course of the tournament with her nine sixes as part of the 161 she scored is presently the most by a batter in the tournament while her strike rate of 166.66 is the most among players managing 50 or more runs. 

Shafali is also the fourth valuable batter in the World T20 in Australia with her 161 runs, accounting for almost one-third of India's total 498 scored in the four matches, stands behind Sri Lanka captain Chamari Atapattu, and England duo Nat Sciver and Heather Knight. 

Most valuable batters in 2020 World T20

Player Team Runs % contribution
Chamari Atapattu Sri Lanka 154 33.92
Nat Sciver England 202 33.66
Heather Knight England 193 32.16
Shafali Verma India 161 30.78
Sophie Devine New Zealand 132 26.24
Beth Mooney Australia 181 25.27
Leslie Lee South Africa 132 24.13
Alyssa Healy Australia 161 22.48

The next best contributor for India has been Jemimah Rodrigues with half as many runs as Shafali - 85 runs at 28.33 with a strike rate of 90.42. Deepti Sharma sits two runs behind Jemimah with 83 runs at 41.50 at a strike rate of 96.51.

The impact of Shafali Verma

Of her total 161 she managed, the joint fourth highest scorer in the tournament, 124 runs were scored in the Powerplays off just the 68 deliveries she faced, hence registering an astounding strike rate of 182.4 with eight sixes and 14 boundaries. The next best player in the Powerplays has managed 77 runs off 60 deliveries with a strike rate of 127.8 with two sixes and 13 boundaries. 

“You obviously watch which areas a particular batsman/batter tends to score, anybody scoring through the off-side really well means that the person can score all around the park. That is the basic logic because to play through the off-side you have to get into great positions and a lot of mechanics of batting have to be in sync to do that,” former Indian batting coach Sanjay Bangar was quoted by Hindustan Times. 

“Shafali has been able to do that, and she scores all around the park—that is one quality which not many people have. It is brilliant that we have unearthed such a talent and it has only taken the load off, or provided a fresh perspective to how T20 needs to be played by women cricketers,” he added.

Her presence during the first six overs of the match has helped India rack up the most runs in the Powerplays - 198 runs in four innings at a run rate of 8.25 with Shafali accounting 62. 62 per cent of the runs. 

"I used to score a lot of our runs in the last two or three years, especially in the powerplay, but now with Shafali coming in, she's getting the runs in the way I do," Mandhana had said before the group-stage match against New Zealand. "She's made a huge impact and the team has become more balanced thanks to her."

Powerplay vs Middle-over scores by India

  Run Rate Dot % Balls per boundary
Powerplays 8.25 43.75 4.6
Middle 6.05 40..9 11

Despite the impetus she has been providing, one which shows India's capability to even racking up around 160, India have shown the tendency to slow down in the middle-overs with the run rate falling from 8.25 to 5.71. That makes India's run contribution in the middle overs, the fifth-best among the ten teams in the tournament. Even the boundary rate of every 4.6 balls in the powerplays increases to 11 during overs between 7 to 16. And according to ESPNCricinfo, India push for a two or three every 15 singles, the worst conversion rate for any team in the tournament. 

India would hence want Shafali to continue with her run-scoring spree in the final, but would also want the likes of Mandhana and Harmanpreet to ably support the 16-year-old.