Shafali Verma, the youngest T20 international debutant for the Indian women’s cricket team, became an inspiration to many young people when she contributed to India’s 51-run win over South Africa in Surat on Tuesday.
Though many are coming forward to applaud Shafali for her awesome performance, there are very few who know about the struggle that she has undergone to reach where she is today.
In a recent interview, Shafali shared her challenges. She mentioned how she had no other choice but to disguise herself as a boy to get training, as there were no academies for girls in her hometown in Haryana.
The 15-year-old batswoman chopped her hair on the instructions of her cricket-crazy father, Sanjeev Verma. This was after every cricket academy in Haryana’s Rohtak district refused her admission.
While sharing her daughter’s struggle, Sanjeev Verma, who runs a small jewelry shop in Rohtak shared:
“No one was ready to induct her in any academy because there was not a single one for girls in Rohtak. I literally begged them to give her a chance but in vain.”
This father-daughter duo always lived in the fear of being caught. But their immense love for cricket pushed them to go ahead with the plan. When asked whether anyone had noticed at the time that she was a girl, he replied:
“I was scared but no one noticed. Nau saal ke umar mein saare bachche ek jaise hi lagte hain (At the age of nine, every kid looks the same).”
Initial days weren’t easy for Shafali as she was bruised and battered several times in the boys’ team. But, it was Shafali’s passion for the game that never let her give up. Recalling her earlier days, Sanjeev shared:
“It was not easy for her to play against the boys as she often used to get hit on the helmet. On a few occasions, the ball even smashed her helmet grill. I used to get worried but she never gave up”
And after a while, things began to change. Her school decided to develop a girls’ cricket team.
Shafali’s talent is quite evident as she became the youngest woman to represent the country in T20Is despite all odds and even scored 46 off 33 balls, in a recent match against South Africa.
While talking to media after the match, Shafali said:
“The aim is to play as long as possible for India and keep winning matches for my country. I am feeling a bit relaxed now, after getting a duck on debut. The senior players backed me after the first match and I am glad I contributed to the team’s victory.”
At IFORHER, we are proud of Shafali and hope our authorities would soon give equal importance to women’s cricket in India. This will enable more girls like Shafali to fulfill their dreams.