Shafali Verma loves to hit the ball out of the park, but the joy of hitting an Australian for a boundary is unparalleled, says the explosive India opener, reminiscent of the men’s team as he takes on the stars of Down Under.
After debuting in India as a 15-year-old prodigy, Shafali has come a long way and, together with the elegant Smriti Mandhana, forms one of the most explosive opening pairs in women’s cricket.
After failing a few times before, Shafali, who has five WT20I 50s, finally scored her first half-century against Australia earlier this week, when she hit a 41-ball 52. sixes.
“I like playing against Australia. Aisa lagta hai ki ladkon ke sath hi khel rahe hain (it feels like playing against men),” Shafali said against Australia on the eve of the fourth T20I.
FIFTY for @TheShafaliVerma – Her 5⃣th in T20Is! 🙌 🙌
This has been a nice knock from the #TeamIndia younger 👏 👏
Follow the match ▶️ https://t.co/jH1N1OiNqc #INDvAUS pic.twitter.com/jk1tS5T3MW
— BCCI Women (@BCCIWomen) December 14, 2022
“When I hit a four (against an Australian) I get a boost and feel like I’ve improved as a player because Australia are the best side (in women’s cricket). I’m always happy when I hit the boundaries of the Australian bowlers. I don’t get so happy when I hit the limits against England or any other team,” she added.
India are currently 1-2 down and will need a win in the fourth T20 to stay alive in the five match series and Shafali know they can’t afford mistakes as the Australians like to capitalize on the smallest of mistakes .
“When I play against Australia, it feels like I’m playing against men because their game is like that. If they see a little mistake you make, they will take advantage of it. So we need to be on top of our game against them,” Shafali said.
“You can’t make mistakes against them. You have to play your best shots, which you feel confident about. I learned a lot playing against Australia.” India succumbed to a loss of 21 points in the previous game.
Shafali and skipper Harmanpreet Kaur had kept India in the match, but as the required run rate increased, the 18-year-old, looking for some big shots, eventually lost her wicket.
“We played well, but the situation was such that we had to take risks. We were 30 runs behind and that situation required you to go for shots when there was a loose ball.
“That shot usually goes for six, but on that day I unfortunately lost my wicket,” she said.
The first two games were played at DY Patil Stadium, while the third game was held at Brabourne Stadium, which also hosts the remaining two games. India had secured a thrilling Super Over win at DY Patil Stadium. But the home hitters also struggled to alternate the stroke, consuming too many punt balls in the series.
“This wicket is not comparable to the one at DY Patil Stadium. Bowlers generate a good swing on this wicket, but we really can’t make excuses.
“Under the guidance of the batting coach, we work on the singles. Day by day we are improving,” she said.
The Indian bowlers have also struggled, but Shafali said the pack throws in the hard yards, “bowling on a single stump”.
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The opener added that hitting coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar has asked her to focus on her ‘shot selection’.