Shafali Verma loves hitting the ball out of the park but the joy of slamming an Australian for a boundary is unmatched, says the explosive India opener, who is reminded of the men’s team while competing against the stars from Down Under.
Having made her India debut as a 15-year-old prodigy, Shafali has come a long way and alongside the elegant Smriti Mandhana, forms one of the most explosive opening pairings in women’s cricket.
After failing a couple of times before, the big-hitting Shafali, who has five WT20I fifties, finally scored her maiden half-century against Australia earlier this week, when she hit a 41-ball 52. Her knock encrusted with six boundaries and three sixes.
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“I love playing against Australia. Aisa lagta hai ki ladkon ke sath hi khel rahe hain (it feels like you are playing against men)," Shafali said on the eve of the fourth T20I against Australia.
“When I hit a four (against an Australian), I get boosted, and feel that I’ve improved as a player, because Australia is the best side (in women’s cricket). I’m always happy when I hit boundaries off the Australian bowlers.
“I don’t get so much happiness when I hit boundaries against England or any other team," she added.
Currently trailing 1-2, India will have to eke out a win in the fourth T20 to stay alive in the five-match series and Shafali knows they cannot afford any slip-ups as the Australians are eager to capitalise 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 small mistake that you are making, they will take advantage of it. So we have 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 are confident about. I learnt a lot while playing against Australia."
India succumbed to a 21-run loss in the previous game.
Shafali and skipper Harmanpreet Kaur had kept India in the contest but as the required run rate increased the 18-year-old, looking to hit some big shots, ended up losing her wicket.
“We were playing well, but the situation was such that we had to take risks. We were 30 runs behind, and that situation demanded that you had to go for shots if there was a loose ball.
“That shot usually goes for six, but on that day, unfortunately I lost my wicket," she said.
The first two fixtures were played at the DY Patil Stadium while the third game was held at the Brabourne Stadium, which will also host the remaining two matches.
India had pulled off a thrilling Super Over win at the DY Patil Stadium.
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But the home batters have also struggled to rotate strike, consuming too many dot balls in the series.
“This wicket is not similar to the one at the DY Patil Stadium. Bowlers are generating good swing on this wicket, but we really can’t give excuses.
“We are working on the singles under the guidance of the batting coach. Day by day, we are improving," she said.
The Indian bowlers have also been struggling but Shafali said the bunch is putting in the hard yards, “bowling on single stump".
The opener added that batting coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar has asked her to focus on her “shot selection."
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