Shafali Verma captured the imagination of the cricketing folklore with her fearless batting and sumptuous strokeplay during the 2020 ICC T20 World Cup in Australia.
Shafali was one of the main spearheads behind India making it to the summit clash against eventual champions Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. But post that tournament, Shafali Verma had to wait for another 377 days for another opportunity to represent the Women in Blue.
The pandemic and the inability of the BCCI to resume Women International cricket didn’t help her cause and the fact that the Neetu David-led selection committee overlooked her for the One-day International series against the touring South Africans did not help her cause either. And, naturally, Shafali was hugely disappointed in not getting an opportunity to smash the cricket ball in 50-over cricket.
”It struck me, if I was not selected in the ODI team there must have been some scope for improvement. I was a bit disappointed, but I knew I would get a chance in the T20s and focused on that. I was itching to go out there and translate one year of hard work and preparation into good performance. While the ODIs were happening, I was with the team, training and learning different aspects of the game from the sidelines,” said Shafali Verma in an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times.
Shafali Verma, with her fearless approach and precocious skills, attracted a billion eyeballs during the 2020 T20 World Cup. But during her time away from the game due to the Covid-enforced break, she did not let her guard down and instead worked hard on honing her skills and improving her physical and mental fitness. And, the Haryana Cricket Association [HCA] played a huge role in her development.
“I worked very hard on my skills, physical and mental, after the T20 World Cup last year. There was not much cricket in the calendar, domestic or international. Also, the World Cup defeat was stuck in my mind. The Haryana Cricket Association (HCA) really looked after me. I held discussions with my coach Ashwini Kumar and told him what I wanted to work on. The association gave me a physiologist and a nutritionist. I was working on my mental and physical well-being, apart from rigorous training in the nets. Counseling sessions helped get over the World Cup loss,” said Verma.
‘I want to cement my place in the ODIs as well’- Shafali Verma
Shafali Verma finally got her opportunity to once again display her imperious talent in the three-match T20I series against the Proteas that followed the ODI rubber by notching scores of 23, 47, and 60.
Her 30-ball 60 was not only a testimony of her skills but also of the amount of hard work that she had put in during her time out from the team.
“I miss my pizza and Doraemon. Now my diet includes more vegetables. I did not know much about these things before. But when you play at the international level, you learn a lot from your seniors and the fitness trainers constantly work on your bodies. I found it very easy to score against South Africa because I had come with ideal preparation. My focus is on cricket at the moment,” said Shafali Verma.
Following India’s 1-4 defeat, ODI captain Mithali Raj had said that Shafali will soon be integrated into the ODI set-up.
And, Shafali is eager to add an extra dimension to her game in order to cement a permanent place in the 50-over team.
“When you are playing 50-overs game, you have to stay at the wicket longer and build a big innings to have an impact. When I am playing T20s, the coach and captain give me the freedom to go after the bowlers and stick to my natural game. In ODIs, I want to apply myself to stay at the wicket for as many overs as possible and build a long innings. I am not thinking of the World Cup at the moment, but I want to cement my place in the ODIs as well.” she added.