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Match Analysis

Shafali repays India's faith in her with typical youthful exuberance

At 18 years, she is already just the fifth Indian woman to 1000 T20I runs, and the youngest to do so in all of women's cricket

S Sudarshanan
S Sudarshanan
08-Oct-2022
Besides scoring a fourth T20I fifty, Shafali also picked up career-best figures of 2 for 10 in the game against Bangladesh  •  Asian Cricket Council

Besides scoring a fourth T20I fifty, Shafali also picked up career-best figures of 2 for 10 in the game against Bangladesh  •  Asian Cricket Council

Is it easy being Shafali Verma?
She burst into the international scene in T20Is as a teenager in 2019, bringing with her a fresh, big-hitting ability unlike many in Indian women's cricket. She made people sit up and take note every time she walked out to bat and almost single-handedly took India to the final of the T20 World Cup in 2020. After a longish break due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she resumed from where she left off in the three-match T20Is against South Africa, smashing a 26-ball half-century in the final match.
In the 20 T20I knocks since then, Shafali has crossed 20 only five times - four of which were scores in the forties. The phase also saw her make her Test and ODI debut, including playing her maiden 50-overs Women's World Cup earlier this year. She endured a tough tour of England last month, where she was dismissed in single digits four times out of six innings, including being castled in back-to-back ODIs by Kate Cross' nipbackers.
Did playing in multiple formats take a toll on Shafali? Was she torn between out-and-out attack and constructing a long innings? Did that dilemma creep into her T20 game and mess with her head?
Ahead of the Women's T20 Asia Cup, Shafali received the unequivocal backing of India captain Harmanpreet Kaur and she repaid the faith with an all-round show against Bangladesh.
Shafali's love for boundaries is an open secret; a wristily-flicked six over deep midwicket off left-arm fast bowler Fariha Trisna - who picked up a hat-trick during her T20I debut - truly saw her get going. With the deep midwicket fielder moving squarer following the shot, she heaved one to the left of the fielder for a one-bounce four before a cross-batted wallop beat long-on to her right. Soon after, she slinked down the track to belt left-arm spinner Nahida Akter over wide mid-off to end the powerplay on 26 off just 15 balls.
Shafali was unafraid to move across the stumps and explore the arc between square leg and long-on. Deliveries like the juicy full toss from medium pacer Ritu Moni on the hips - which was nonchalantly flicked over deep square leg - also helped. It was not a flawless knock by any means; she faced 16 dots through her knock and had a tough time getting the experienced offspinner Salma Khatun and legspinner Fahima Khatun away.
But that did not prevent her from getting to just to her fourth T20I half-century off 40 balls, the slowest of her career. She then followed it with her career-best T20I figures of 2 for 10, including the wicket of an on-song Nigar Sultana. It was another feather in her ever-growing, impressive cap, having stood in as a substitute wicket-keeper for Richa Ghosh on at least two occasions in the competition.
At all of 18 years, Shafali is already only the fifth Indian woman to 1000 T20I runs, and the youngest to do so in all women's matches. She also has hit the third-most sixes in T20Is for India and is only one behind Smriti Mandhana's tally of 42.
Being consistent is perhaps not her strongest suit. But she substitutes it with impactful knocks. She may get to scoring runs regularly. Or maybe not. And that's why, perhaps it is not easy being Shafali Verma. But from the looks of it, it is quite fun being Shafali Verma.

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo