From being a gentleman's game to welcoming women, cricket has witnessed a stark transformation over the years. However, youngest T20I debutant Shafali Verma's story tells us that there's still a long way to go. An upsetting yet motivating tale, Shafali's journey to make it to the national cricket squad is all the inspiration you need to achieve your goals.
The 15-year-old’s journey was a tough one as she had to chop her hair short, so she could look like a boy and enroll herself in a cricket academy in Rohtak. All because there are no academies for girls in her hometown.
In an interview with a leading news publication, Sanjeev Verma, Shafali Verma's father revealed, "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. I knocked on the doors of a lot of cricket academies but all I got was rejection. I decided to cut her hair, and took her to one of the academies and got her enrolled there as a boy".
"I was scared but no one noticed. But at the age of nine, every kid looks the same", he added.
Sanjeev also recalled the criticism, which he had to face when all the neighbours discouraged him for supporting his daughter. "Neighbours and relatives started to taunt me. Your daughter plays with boys, girls have no future in cricket. I and my daughter were exposed to such scornful comments from society that anyone would get mentally scarred. But my daughter is very strong mentally. She told me once, 'Papa one day they all will be chanting my name'," Sanjeev said.
A proud and emotional father, Sanjeev, also revealed, "When she first came on TV while playing for Velocity team in the Women’s T20 Challenge in May, all those who were criticising us were dumbstruck. I felt so proud."
Shafali played her first ever T20I match in a series against South Africa last month. At 15, she became the youngest Indian cricketer to play a T20I. Though she got dismissed for a duck in her first match, she hit a 46 off 33 upfront with five boundaries and two sixes in the second T20 to lead India's women cricket team to 140/4. Way to go, Shefali!
Shafali is being seen as a promising choice to address all the opening slot problems the team has had in T20Is. On the gaming front, Shafali will be seen playing next against South Africa in the fifth T20I of the series on October 4. India currently leads the story 2-0.
All the best, team India!
Featured Image: ESPN