WPL 2024: Shafali Verma goes from training in boy’s guise to top gun

"Meg Lanning guided me with the shot selections," says the 20-year-old star from Rohtak after the Delhi Capitals' big win

Shafali Verma stepping out at the Delhi Capitals' nets (photo: Delhi Capitals)
Shafali Verma stepping out at the Delhi Capitals' nets (photo: Delhi Capitals)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

From a chubby teenager who disguised herself as a boy to train in her native town of Rohtak in Haryana, Shafali Verma has come a long way.

Still only 20, she has already been a key member of the India women’s team for nearly five years now — and is now tasked with leading the charge for the Delhi Capitals in the ongoing Women’s Premier League 2024 (WPL).

Shrugging off a last-ball defeat in the long opener against champions Mumbai Indians, the Capitals rode a blazing 119-run partnership between openers Verma and the much-decorated Australian Meg Lanning to romp to a victory against the UP Warriorz by 9 wickets on the evening of 26 February, Monday. After failing in the first game, Verma went in all guns blazing, with an unbeaten 64 off 43 deliveries, while Lanning scored 51 off 43.

‘’It’s great fun to be around the team and opening with Meg," said Verma. "She communicates with me after every ball, guides me with my shot selections throughout the innings and it has been helping me a lot.’’ Verma was the second-highest run-getter for the Capitals in the 2023 edition of the WPL, with 252 runs from 9 matches at an excellent strike rate of 185.29.

Earlier, Marizzane Kapp’s 3/5 and Radha Yadav’s 4/20 set the tone for the Capitals, restricting the UP Warriorz to 119/9 in 20 overs. The Capitals will now square off against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in their third match, at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Thursday, 29 February.

‘’It’s a good team win for us. I felt like we needed that after the close game against Mumbai, so it was nice to contribute to the team’s win,’’ Kapp, the South African all-rounder, told DC media.

The hype which preceded Verma’s international debut in a T20I series against South Africa, as the youngest ever at 15-plus, did not seem misplaced—her fearless strokeplay was a breath of fresh air on Monday.

Starting out in a state where there was no separate cricket academy for girls, Verma had grown up idolising Sachin Tendulkar—though she wanted to model her game on the ‘see-ball-hit-ball’ attitude of Virender Sehwag!

Verma was bought by the Capitals for Rs 2 crore at the 2023 WPL auction.

With clear potential as a match-winner, she possesses a healthy strike rate of 130 in T20Is and could play a crucial role in helping the Capitals build a solid platform upfront.

She has already led the 2020 U-19 women’s team to a title triumph in South Africa and was a part of the Indian team that reached the final of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020, where they lost to Australia in a one-sided final. The aggressive batter still finished as India’s highest run-getter in the tournament.

Verma was also a part of the Indian cricket team to won its first gold medal at the Asian Games in Hangzhou.

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