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Cricket news - Nothing beats staying true to your game - Shafali Verma

Shafali Verma is keen to improve on her all-round game and help India become world beaters

Shafali Verma is keen to improve on her all-round game and help India become world beaters

At the young age of 16, Shafali Verma was the heartbeat of an entire nation as the Indian women's team made it to the final of the 2020 Women's T20 WC. Her bold hitting at the top of the order was one of the highpoints in the tournament which was eventually won by long-shot favourites Australia. In a team that had stars like Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur, Verma's dazzling batting left her peers behind and catapulted her to the top of the batting rankings for batswomen.

Having made a name for herself at the biggest stage, Shafali is now keen to improve on her all-round game and help India become world beaters. The Indian women came close to securing their maiden World title this year in Australia, but they eventually ran out of steam against a professional Australian unit. The Indian opener though believes that the loss in the final could only help the team going forward.

"Just didn't go our way that day (in the final). But sports is all about winning and losing. There will be other opportunities that will go our way. What happened we cannot change, but what will happen is in our hands and we will not leave any stone unturned as we look to be the best in the business," Shafali said.

The right-handed batter enjoyed a prolific time with the bat, scoring 163 runs at a good average of 32.60 and an excellent strike-rate of 158.25, the best amongst all batters. This, she said, gave her confidence although she regretted not being able to win the trophy for her team. "My job is to go out there and score runs and put India in an advantageous position. It obviously feels good when people appreciate your performance, but the trophy in the hand would have felt so much better," she rued.

With the entire country in lockdown mode following the COVID-19 pandemic, a homebound Shafali is working on staying fit and is following the module that has been given to her by the Haryana Cricket Association (HCA). "I have been working hard on my fitness and it helps that HCA has given us customised fitness charts keeping in mind the areas we need to work on. With us staying indoors at this point in time, the chart further helps as it has workouts planned in a way that we can easily do them at home and don't need to go to a gym," she said.

The HCA has also organised sessions with a sports psychologist and Shafali says it's imperative that there's someone looking after the needs in such crucial times. "At these times, a lot of negative thoughts can seep into the mind. But speaking to the sports psychologist helped a lot. The motivation has helped stay positive in these tough times," she explained.

"To be honest, the support of Ashwani sir (coach), HCA and Baseline Ventures (talent management company) has really helped. Signing up with them has helped relieve a lot of pressure off my father who has been an integral part of my journey." she added.

The Indian team that reached the final had a mix of young and experienced players, but Shafali recounted that there were no egos in the dressing room and this helped the team to perform better on the field. "You know, there is nothing like seniors will speak and juniors have to listen or things like that. It is a very relaxed atmosphere and in fact not just seniors like Harmanpreet Kaur or Smriti Mandhana, everyone is looking to push the other the extra mile. And we have a really amazing coach in W.V. Raman sir," she said.

"The best part about Raman sir is that he always has solutions ready and helps out whenever we are stuck. If there is an issue I am facing, I can always go up to him and get clarity on how to work my way out. He just has a brilliant mind and can easily instil confidence." she added.

Shafali formed an explosive opening partnership with Mandhana at the top of the order and she said the brief was to play her natural game. "We would keep it simple. If there is a bad ball, it must be hit and there are no two ways about it. So, when I get a bad ball, I hit it and same works for her. And when we get a good ball, we try and steal a single out of it. Nothing beats staying true to your game. Trying to curb your natural instincts don't work I feel," the 16-year old said.

Shafali is now an integral part of India's batting order and hopes to continue batting aggressively and get her team off to good starts often. "Win more games for India. I should be able to put India in a position of strength when I go out to bat. The goal will always be to contribute to India's success," she signed off.

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