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Shafali, Harleen, Sushree - inspiring hope for India women

Harleen Deol plays a lofted shot BCCI

Halfway into the tournament, the Women's T20 Challenge has thrown up several promising young Indian performers. ESPNcricinfo takes a look at three of them:

Shafali Verma, and five-feet-something of depth

One of the results from a Twitter search for Shafali Verma was: "How can a 15-year-old hit such powerful shots?"

A little over five-feet tall, the Rohtak-born Haryana player is one among four uncapped players - and the youngest across teams - in the Women's T20 Challenge.

Until the start of Velocity's chase on Wednesday, Shafali's name on the squad list - or even the team sheet - would have been overlooked in the glow of some of her more illustrious team-mates. One of those, the destructive England opener Danielle Wyatt, had to vacate her designated batting slot for Shafali.

When captain Mithali Raj sent the teenager in to open, not many would have expected Shafali to hit six boundaries - five fours and a six - and ooze the kind of fearlessness that Smriti Mandhana had urged domestic cricketers to showcase after India's recent 0-3 T20I series loss against England in Guwahati. Fewer still would have imagined an unheralded female cricketer to nail pulls, cuts, and drives, both on the back foot and front foot, with such ease.

One of the reasons the BCCI has refrained from getting a full-fledged women's IPL off the ground are the apprehensions around India's domestic pool. Shafali had shown her pedigree during the 2018-19 senior women's inter-state T20 tournament, making 186 runs in six innings at a strike rate of 187.87. That included a tournament-high 128 off 56 balls against Nagaland. She showed on Wednesday she could handle a higher quality of bowling too. So how deep is India's domestic pool then? Five-feet something, Shafali might say.

Harry Jr.'s #KaurStrength

Three months ago, Harleen (Kaur) Deol made her international debut as a replacement for the injured Harmanpreet Kaur (Bhullar). Known as Harry - their shared moniker - in the Indian dressing room - both hail from the same state (Punjab), although unlike Harry Sr., Deol plays for Himachal Pradesh, whose senior and Under-23 sides have benefitted from her consistent showings.

That she made it into India's limited-overs squads was, to a major part, down to her 29-ball 21 for Board President's XI against a full-strength England side in February. Her four international outings have yielded only 25 runs so far, but that hides the truth. She could very well be the solution to some of India's batting woes beyond Smriti Mandhana.

A standout for Trailblazers, Deol's back-to-back 30-plus knocks in the Women's T20 Challenge are testament to her ability to score at a brisk rate, as well as dropping anchor when needed, like during her 119-run stand with Mandhana on Monday night, where she played second fiddle.

And then there's her nonchalant stroke play. In the match against Velocity, she danced down the track to legspinner Amelia Kerr and bisected long-off and long-on with such ease it seemed effortless. It had nothing of the trademark Harry Sr. belligerence, yet would make a worthy feature in any highlights package.

The Sushree Redemption act

A missed run-out opportunity got Sushree Dibyadarshini an earful from bowler Shikha Pandey in the 11th over. Had Dibyadarshini's throw hit the stumps at the non-striker's end, West Indies captain Stafanie Taylor would have been out. The best thing the 21-year-old offspinner could do to recover was to not worsen matters when Raj introduced her in the next over.

Generous loop, a teasing outside-the-offstump line, varying lengths - Dibyadarshini's control ticked nearly all check-boxes in her four-run opening over. Rewarded with a second over straight up, she had Taylor return a dolly off the first ball. Redemption over, Dibyadarshini rounded out the over as a wicket maiden. Raj decided against bowling her out, so the offspinner's job on the day seemed to be over.

But then, on the penultimate ball of the innings, Dibyadarshini swooped in from sweeper cover in an attempt to catch Shakera Selman. The ball bounced before her, and Trailblazers added three runs to their tally. If points were rewarded for intent, Dibyadarshini would have added a few to her name with that effort.