From Shafali Verma to Richa Ghosh – India's young brigade ready to dominate world cricket
Team India have been playing a limited-overs series (5 ODIS and 3 T20Is) against South Africa in Lucknow
Team India have been playing a limited-overs series (5 ODIS and 3 T20Is) against South Africa in Lucknow, where they have already lost both the series. While they lost the ODI series 1-4, they faced a 0-2 defeat in the T20I series with one game in hand.
By far, we have known how they performed in the ODI series. And, the beginning of the T20I series was no different as well. As usual the same old story of over dependence on the openers, lack of power hitters at the end and spinners' inability to take wickets were seen. Moreover, they were playing without their regular captain Harmanpreet Kaur, who was injured and that made things worse for them.
Although Harmanpreet didn't play in the second game too, a completely different approach was seen from the relatively new team.
Well, toss has been playing a key part in the ongoing series where South Africa captain Sune Luus once again sealed the deal. Since chasing has become a go-to option, it was no different in the second match too.
Luss' decision became fruitful with the stand-in captain Smriti Mandhana's early dismissal. But little did South Africa know at that time what young guns would do. The ever-destructive batter Shafali Verma was not in her fluent form in the first match where she scored 23, considering she was playing after more than a year.
While many were hoping not to see another collapse, Verma didn't break the trust. She took less than 24 hours to return to her zone.
She smacked South Africa pace spearhead Shabnim Ismail for three boundaries in a single over. While Anneke Bosch gave her a life when Verma pulled to mid-on in the 3rd over, she grabbed it with both hands and hit Ismail over mid-off for another boundary. And then, she pulled over the long-on region as well.
The final over of the powerplay saw her onslaught again where she smashed Nadine de Klerk for a boundary and a maximum.
It would be wrong if we don't mention Harleen Deol here. The youngster anchored India's innings with a steady fifty in the first game and once again continued to do so in the second game too and supported Verma quite well.
Their onslaught took the host to 79 runs in the half-way mark. The 11th over started with another maximum from Verma. A flighted delivery around off from Mlaba, Verma slog-swept it over cow corner and it cleared the rope.
A delight to watch!
Just when everyone was hoping for a massive total, Mlaba removed the 17-year-old just 3 runs short of her fifty with a flighted delivery when she tried to go across and play it to the leg-side but missed it badly and the ball hit the stumps. She scored 47 off 31 and the intent was clearly shown.
While speaking about her knock, Shafali said in the virtual press conference, "When I was batting today, the only thing on my mind was to perform to the best of my ability. I knew if I stay at the crease, I will help the team to get a good total. I was playing my natural game. When we saw the wicket, we knew that we can score 150-160, and our batters did just that."
"The wicket was nice to bat on, when Harleen came out, our plan was to rotate the strike and dispatch the loose balls for boundaries. We just wanted the team to get a big total. I am playing after one year, I got confidence after playing the first T20I, the past year was quite a challenge," she further added.
If you haven't watched the game, you can freak out, thinking about the absence of power-hitter in the middle and lower order.
But, as the heading suggests 'Fearless Young Brigade', another 17-year-old Richa Ghosh, filled in the gap. She got off the mark with a four off Sune Luus, slicing it in a way that beat the short third man fielder. The very next ball could be dangerous if the the Proteas wicketkeeper Sinalo Jafta could manage to stump her.
And, she utilized the chance quite well. The next ball she hit through the off-side despite having a packed field and another one she hit it square past the point fielder as well.
Sheer brilliance from the youngster!
Although Jemimah Rodrigues tried her best with wide range of shots, it was Ghosh who stole the limelight. She took on Khaka in the penultimate over where she sliced the second delivery behind square on the off-side that went for a boundary between backward point and the short third man.
She hit another boundary on the penultimate ball through square leg region.
Well, this was not the end, as she hammered two more boundaries off one of the best in the business – Shabnim Ismail, in the final over. Although she couldn't reach the 50-run mark, her onslaught was enough to take the team over 150-run mark.
She remained unbeaten on 44* off 26.
Seeing her game, for a while, it looked like she can be groomed as a finisher and alongside Kaur in the middle-overs, she can be that answer of the puzzle which the team is searching for a long time for the shortest format of the game.
While COVID-19 brought the entire world into a standstill last year, its imposed lockdown helped both the youngsters to work on their game. When asked about the aspects Shafali worked on during lockdown, she said: "During the lockdown, I did hard work and I worked on to be selective in picking balls which I need to go after. I improved on rotating the strike and I worked on taking singles and doubles. I worked on both front foot and backfoot."
"When I am batting, I always think about dispatching the loose balls for boundaries. If I find any ball in my area, I try to smash it. During the lockdown, I was also trying to prepare for the ODIs so I worked on playing grounded shots," she concluded.
Well, the improvement was clearly shown in her game too. Although India lost the game due to poor fielding and lack of wicket taking bowlers, the never give up attitude was something that they could carry forward in the next. The fearless approach that started with the 17-year-old Shafali Verma, ended with another 17-year-old Richa Ghosh. And, it can certainly be said that the future is here. If the team could invest more on them, they will flourish in future.
The final T20I will be played on March 23 where the host will try to end with a positive note.