She has been the backbone of India’s batting but opener Smriti Mandhana is delighted that teen prodigy Shafali Verma is taking the pressure off her at the ongoing ICC Women’s T20 World Cup with her attacking game.
The 23-year-old Mandhana, who has been a key player for the Indian team in the last two-three few years, said Verma is doing a solid job at the top of the order.
“I used to score a lot of our runs in the last two-three years, especially in the Powerplay, but now with Shafali coming in, she’s getting the runs in the way I do. It makes the team more balanced,” Mandhana was quoted as saying by ICC.
“Shafali has been a huge positive coming into the T20 side. The way she’s going about her batting, it’s so easy to bat alongside her,” she said on the eve of India’s match against New Zealand in Melbourne on Thursday.
The 16-year-old Verma has scored 68 runs in two games in this World Cup, which include five sixes and seven fours and an impressive strike rate of 212.
The right-hander, who is making her Women’s T20 World Cup debut in Australia, picked up the player of the match award for her 39 runs against Bangladesh, a game which Mandhana missed after picking up viral fever.
“I used to have a major role in the Powerplays, but Shafali is getting the quick runs in those first few overs now too. She has made a huge impact and the team has become more balanced thanks to her,” said Mandhana, who also made her India debut in 2013 as a 16-year-old.
Talking about Thursday’s match against New Zealand, Mandhana said, “I don’t think we will be going into the game thinking about a total, we will continue playing the way that is working for all of our batters.”
Seasoned New Zealand pacer Lea Tahuhu said she is looking forward to bowling at Verma. “Personally, I love the thought of facing Verma. It makes me fire up a little bit more and I’m really looking forward to playing her,” she said.
“I actually played her in the T20 Challenge in India last year and I know she’s not going to take a step back,” said Tahuhu.
(With inputs from ICC)