Five years ago, a starry-eyed Shafali Verma wrestled through a vociferous crowd at the nondescript Lahli ground to get a glimpse of her idol Sachin Tendulkar, the moment that inspired the then 10-year-old to take up the game.
On Thursday, the 15-year-old was picked to play for India.
It was not just another match, it was a landmark occasion — Tendulkar playing his final Ranji Trophy game ahead of his international retirement.
“Jitne log Sachin sir ko andar dekhne ke liye khade the, utne hee bahar the (There were as many people outside the stadium as inside to get a glimpse of Tendulkar. Only then I realised how big a deal is to be a cricketer in India, especially when you are revered like Sachin sir,” Shafali told PTI.
Squad for first 3 T20Is: Harmanpreet Kaur (Cap), Smriti Mandhana (vc), Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Poonam Yadav, Shikha Pandey, Arundhati Reddy, Pooja Vastrakar, Radha Yadav, Veda Krishnamurthy, Harleen Deol, Anuja Patil, Shafali Verma, Mansi Joshi.
— BCCI Women (@BCCIWomen) September 5, 2019
“I can never forget that day. My cricketing journey started from there,” the soft-spoken player said hours after getting the news of her selection for the T20 series against South Africa.
A big-hitting batter, which is the need of the hour for the struggling Indian women’s T20 team, she first attracted attention with her performances in the 2018-19 Inter-State Women’s T20 tournament where she hammered 128 off 56 balls against Nagaland.
The selectors were convinced of her 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.
Shafali’s selection brings Haryana even more joy than Chahal, Mohit
“I was expecting this call-up to be honest. I had done well in domestic cricket and also in that big tournament in Jaipur. The recent camp at NCA also went well for me. So, yes I was hopeful,” Shafali said on Thursday.
In Haryana, her home state, news of her selection was even more pleasing than when Yuzvendra Chahal and Mohit Sharma had been picked in the India men’s squad.
Chahal and Sharma’s national selection was satisfying for him but BCCI treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry is feeling more “chuffed” for 15-year-old Haryana schoolgirl Shafali Verma’s entry into the Indian women’s team.
“When Yuzi or Mohit did well for India in World Cups it gave me immense satisfaction but I was a bit more chuffed when I learnt about Shafali’s selection,” the BCCI treasurer told PTI.
“In fact, Shafali is the youngest player to represent country since the age protocol has been put in place,” he said.
“Seamer Mansi Joshi is actually the first woman cricketer from the Haryana to play for India but now she has moved to Uttarakhand. Now we have Shafali,” he said.