Shafali Verma, India’s 15-year-old star, needed boy’s haircut to start cricket training
Shafali Verma, India’s 15-year-old women’s cricket sensation, has shot into the limelight after starring in the 51-wicket win over South Africa in the last Twenty20 International on Tuesday. The teenager, who was dismissed for a four-ball duck on her debut in the opening match, laid the foundation for a good total with an entertaining 46 off 33 balls
But not too long ago, she had to get her hair cut like a boy just so that she could get admitted into the local academy to train.
“I introduced her to cricket when she was eight or nine. I used to take her to play neighbourhood teams on Sundays,” her father Sanjeev Verma told AFP.
“Most teams refused to play against her. They said that she could get hurt and that I would complain if that happened.
“Even when I insisted she was my daughter and I was okay, most didn’t agree,” said Verma, who makes jewellery in Rohtak near New Delhi.
That is when he decided to give her a “boy’s haircut” to trick opponents.
“At eight or nine, all kids look the same. After the haircut, most didn’t even notice she was a girl and she started playing regularly at weekends,” he said.
The father said he was never worried about seeing her play against male teams, believing it would improve her skills. But when he tried to get professional training, he hit a new equality obstacle when academies refused to take Shafali.
“Most in town refused to take a girl. I eventually found one which took boys and girls. It was eight kilometres from our house and she used to cycle there for training each day,” the proud parent added.
The youngster from Haryana made people and selectors take note of her big-hitting rare talent when she made 34 off 31 balls in the Women’s T20 Challenge in Jaipur earlier this year against an attack comprising well known international names.
From then on, she was picked in the Indian squad and became the youngest debutante for the Indian women’s team in the shortest format in preparation for the World T20 early next year.
The father and daughter are “diehard fans” of Sachin Tendulkar, holder of many scoring records and a legend in Indian cricket. It was Tendulkar’s final Ranji Trophy match at Lahli that inspired her to take up the sport, she had earlier said.
“I have always been a Sachin fan and I made sure that I introduced her to his batting very early. We watched so many Sachin innings together,” he said.
With Shafali already in the national team, at least two other members of the Verma family hope to find cricket success. Shafali’s 17-year-old brother, Sahil, also hopes to rise through the ranks. “Even my youngest daughter Nancy, 6, has started playing cricket. Both of them are inspired by their sister.
“I just hope she plays for the national team for a long time and is part of the first Indian women’s team to win the World Cup,” he said.