Shafali Verma was definitely the brightest talent scouted by BCCI in 2019. She was fast-tracked into mainstream T20 cricket after a 38-ball 49 against an international-standard Railways attack, followed by a 56-ball 128 (116 of which came in fours and sixes) against Nagaland — all of which was scored inside 15 overs. Barely 15, she was included in the Velocity squad in the Women's T20 Challenge.
She impressed with a couple of cameos, demonstrating proficiency against both pace and spin, combining deft applications with uninhibited savagery. Danni Wyatt, who partnered her during her innings against Trailblazers, would almost immediately predict an Indian cap for him by 2019. She was correct. Mithali Raj would agree to her in a few months' time.
By September Verma was playing for India. By the end of the year she had cemented her place. By February she was taking on the best bowlers in the world on Australian soil. And by March she had scaled the top spot in ICC rankings for Women's T20I batters. Here is how she progressed (the numbers are cumulative).
|Shafali Verma cumulative T20I record|
Despite scoring only two fifties, Verma's career aggregate stands at 485 runs (she would have made it to the 500-run mark had the semi-final against England not been washed out). She has scored 161 of these runs in four innings the ongoing T20 World Cup — somehow averaging over 40 without reaching fifty even once.
However, when it comes to strike rate, both career and in the ongoing tournament, Verma's numbers make remarkable reading:
|Best strike rates|
|Career: 400 runs||T20 World Cup 2020: 100 runs|
|Shafali Verma||485||147||Shafali Verma||161||161|
|Chloe Tryon||757||140||Laura Wolvaardt||94||149|
|Alyssa Healy||1,985||131||Alyssa Healy||161||144|
|Ashleigh Gardner||645||128||Lizelle Lee||119||138|
|Sophie Devine||2,384||126||Heather Knight||193||137|
|Smriti Mandhana*||1,705||119||Deepti Sharma*||83||97|
|(*next best among Indians)|
One of the reasons behind Verma's success is her ability to find the boundary with alarming regularity. Less than a year into her career and barely 16, Verma is already one of 14 batters to hit 20 fours and 20 sixes in the past five years (she has played only 18 matches, remember) — and has hit them more frequently than anyone else in this batch:
|Fewest balls faced/boundary hit|
|20 fours, 20 sixes since 2015||3 fours, 3 sixes in 2020 T20 World Cup|
|Shafali Verma||58||21||330||4.18||Shafali Verma||18||9||100||3.7|
|Alyssa Healy||194||29||946||4.24||Lizelle Lee||19||3||86||3.91|
|Sophie Devine||148||71||1116||5.1||Chamari Athapaththu||19||7||114||4.38|
|Ashleigh Gardner||74||24||504||5.14||Alyssa Healy||21||4||112||4.48|
|Danni Wyatt||143||22||902||5.47||Heather Knight||22||5||141||5.22|
|Chloe Tryon||43||25||372||5.47||Chloe Tryon||3||3||32||5.33|
|Lizelle Lee||146||35||993||5.49||Maddy Green||6||4||82||8.2|
|Smriti Mandhana||202||32||1304||5.57||Rachael Haynes||6||3||81||9|
|Hayley Matthews||110||23||831||6.25||Sophie Devine||11||3||127||9.07|
In the big tournament, Verma, the youngest of all names mentioned here, has actually improved on the frequency of her already astonishing boundary hitting, bringing it down to well below one every four balls bowled. Lizelle Lee has obviously improved as well, but Verma has simply increased the gap between her and the others.
There is little doubt that her performance in this edition has been one of a kind. Put a cut-off of 100 runs, and only Deandra Dottin has had a strike rate better than Verma's 161 in a single edition.
|Best strike rates in a single edition (100 runs)|
However, Dottin's performance in that series was as unusual as they made them: 112*, 1, 0, 0, the last two being golden ducks. In other words, while she did get runs once, she was far from consistent. Verma, on the other hand, has scored 39, 29, 47, and 46.
The Indian bowling attack has impressed. In fact, the bowlers have been so impactful that even four of them can be good enough for more sides. However, the same cannot be said of their batters, who are almost entirely dependent on Verma for now in the final, at Melbourne.
Her performance in the Powerplay overs may change, even define, the course of the final. Whether a 16-year old can absorb that level of pressure needs to be seen.
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