Opener Shafali Verma is not just seen as one of the best young cricketers in the Indian team, but pundits believe she has it in her to take the women's game to the next level. And she proved her mettle once again in the recently concluded T20I series against South Africa when she sent the bowlers on a leather hunt. But more than anything, it was her swift foot movement that caught the eye. The precision in her footwork made one sit up and take note.
Shafali revealed how training with the Haryana men's team ahead of the Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament helped her improve her game and gave her that extra second at the crease during the T20I series against the Proteas women.
"The reason behind the fast foot movement is the time I spent with the Haryana men's team ahead of the Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament. I cannot thank the Haryana Cricket Association enough for allowing me to train with the team. What it did was that it helped my decision-making power at the crease as I was facing fast bowlers who were touching close to the 140kph mark. So, I had that extra second to decide if I wanted to go back or play off the front foot when I played the T20I series," she explained.
"We had some top quality bowlers in Mohit Sharma, Ashish Hooda, Ajeet Chahal, Sanjay Pahal and Aman Kumar among others."
While facing spin is okay, but wasn't it difficult to adjust to the pace of the boys? Shafali agreed that it did require some time before she could adapt to that pace.
"Yes, initially it was difficult and I was getting hurried at the nets. But towards the end of the camp, I was middling the ball and that is when I knew that this worked. It was quite an experience to play with the men's team and has put me in a position wherein I have benefitted immensely," she smiled.
Apart from playing whirlwind knocks in the T20I series, Shafali also looked to have improved her fitness. She once again thanked the HCA for helping the players during the lockdown.
"Yes, I did work on my fitness during the time away from the game due to lockdown. Here too, cannot thank the HCA enough. Every player was catered to individually. Our needs were looked into and even for things like dumbbells, HCA ensured every player had equipment to train. At the top level, you need to be fit to perform," she explained.
While Shafali did win hearts with her knocks of 23, 47 and 60 in the three matches, the opener says the idea is to keep raising the bar.
"No resting on past laurels. Need to get to the next level and score a hundred. I must mention that the Indian team is a bundle of positive energy and the kind of motivation you get makes you excel further. But yes, I am looking to turn the 60s into hundreds," the 17-year-old said.
Her not making it to the ODI team saw eyebrows being raised, but Shafali refuses to get into the selection space. "My job is to bat. If I am not selected in some game, it means I lacked somewhere and I need to do better. There is and will be nothing more to this," she said.
Finally, asked if she was excited to regain the World No.1 rank in the latest ICC T20I rankings for women, Shafali said she plays to win games for India. "Every time I go out to bat, I want to win the game for my team. Be it for my state team or India, my job is to bat the opposition out of the game. Records definitely sound good and boost the morale after the game, but during the match, I only want to score runs," she signed off.