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Shafali Verma training against men’s U-25 bowlers in bid to up short-ball game

Shafali Verma training against men's U-25 bowlers in bid to up short-ball game

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“I know the areas of my game I need to get better at and one of them is playing the short ball”

Two years into international cricket, 17-year-old Shafali Verma is fully aware of the need to improve constantly and her immediate focus is on tweaking her short-ball game against fast bowlers.
Having made her India debut as a 15-year-old, Shafali has come a long way over the past 24 months and alongside Smriti Mandhana, forms one of the most explosive opening pairings in women’s cricket. However, on tours of England and Australia this year, Shafali was peppered with short balls and she didn’t look particularly comfortable against them. So, to get better against the rising ball, Shafali is now facing 200-250 balls from Under-25 men’s players, who can clock 125-130 kmph, at Shri Ram Narain Cricket Academy in Gurugram, under the watchful eyes of her coach Ashwani Kumar.

“It feels good that I have been able to complete two years in international cricket but there is a long way to go. I know the areas of my game I need to get better at and one of them is playing the short ball,” Shafali told PTI after being named a Hyundai brand ambassador. “The coaches have also told me to play as per the ball and I will continue to do that. I will never change my game.”

During the England and Australia series, Shafali was seen backing away to the short balls and the approach fetched her mixed returns. The coaches at the academy are making her play the short ball on cemented, astroturf and normal wickets. And, besides negotiating higher speeds from the men, Shafali is also facing throwdowns.

“I won’t back away that much going forward. You will see me shuffling around the crease a lot more and play as per the merit of the ball,” Shafali, who is also working on her fitness, said.

Her coach Kumar feels Shafali will only get better with time and experience. “We must not forget that she is still 17. Her dream Test debut shows that she has got the required technique to succeed at the highest level.

“In the shorter formats, where there is scoreboard pressure, you need to be really quick with your thinking and that is where she needs to improve a bit. As she goes along playing for India, you will see her only getting better.”

Mandhana targets better consistency for World Cup success

Mandhana, who was named a Hyundai ambassador alongside Shafali, Jemimah Rodrigues and Taniya Bhatia, said she wants to add more consistency to her batting going into the Women’s ODI World Cup in New Zealand in March.
“Post [the] Covid [-enforced break from cricket], it was hard to get the rhythm back as I was playing international cricket after one and a half years,” Mandhana told PTI. “It took a while to get into the groove but the last two series [England and Australia] have been decent but surely there is scope for improvement.

“The last one year has been really important for us and especially playing in England and Australia. We are also playing New Zealand, so playing the top three-four teams in a space of seven-eight months, that is the best preparation for World Cup.”

Smriti Mandhana

“I am really happy with the way I have been timing the ball… [But] as a batter you have to be selfish to be more consistent and that’s something I want to work on, closing games on a regular basis especially the tight finishes.

“It is something which we all know that we need to work on as that is going to help us in the World Cup.”

India has lost ODI series to South Africa, England and Australia since March, but Mandhana feels the team has got the best possible preparation for the World Cup. India will also play New Zealand before the World Cup.

“The last one year has been really important for us and especially playing in England and Australia. We are also playing New Zealand, so playing the top three-four teams in a space of seven-eight months, that is the best preparation for World Cup. We have learnt a lot in the last two series.”

“The Australia series was a good one though results didn’t go our way. Almost all the matches were decided in the last over and those were matches we could have won or lost. We were able to score 250 plus in two out of three games. Will take take all the positives from that. I also learnt a lot in Australia.”


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