Shafali VERMA, the teen phenom from Haryana, has become the youngest Indian cricketer, male or female, to score a half-century in an international match. At the age of 15 years and 285 days, the Rohtak girl smashed a breathtaking 73 off 49 balls against West Indies in the first T20 International, putting into shade a half-century by her senior partner, Smriti Mandhana. As if to show it was no fluke, Shafali struck an even more amazing innings the next day, 69 off 35 balls, to take India to a 10-wicket win over West Indies in the second T20I. Shafali put Smriti in the shade once again during their 104-run partnership. Smriti is one of the best strikers of the ball in women’s cricket across the world, and it would take an especially gifted player to outshine her two days in a row. Shafali did it effortlessly.
Women’s cricket in India had its watershed moment two years ago, at the 50-over World Cup, when Harmanpreet Kaur smashed 171 off 115 balls against Australia in the semifinals. India strode to the final but suffered a close and heartbreaking loss to England. The performance of the team caught the imagination of the nation — cricket academies reported a surge in the number of parents bringing their daughters to train. Women’s cricket now has greater visibility and career viability than ever before because of the efforts of the cricket authorities.
India now has three of the world’s most talented youngsters in women’s cricket — Shafali, the 19-year-old Jemimah Rodrigues, and Smriti, who is a seasoned veteran at only 23 years of age. Shafali is very good news for Indian sport: India does not rank high in terms of the participation of its citizens in sport; for the country’s women, the numbers are abysmally low. India must have more role models for our little girls, in order to ensure that our society is fitter and a lighter burden on our crumbling healthcare system. The nationalistic pride the achievements of the woman sportspersons engender is a great bonus, of course.
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