The Indian team management seem to have finally run out of patience with Shafali Verma and dropped her for the second One-Day International against Australia in Mumbai on Saturday (December 30). The 19-year-old, who made her ODI debut in June 2021, has been mediocre for a while and has been guilty of repeating the same mistakes again and again.
With Smriti Mandhana unwell and unavailable for selection for the first ODI, Shafali opened the batting alongside Yastika Bhatia but looked completely clueless against Darcie Brown. The right-hander could only manage to score a single run before getting knocked over by an incoming delivery.
Mandhana returned for the second game and the management decided to stick with Bhatia who scored 49 off 64 in the opening encounter. This was always on the cards and you can’t really blame the team management for losing their trust in Shafali.
Brought into the ODI set-up to provide India quick starts, Shafali was given a lot of opportunities and freedom, but the batter from Haryana hasn’t quite done justice to her role. An average of 24.36 and a strike rate of 83.35 after 23 ODIs isn’t something to be proud of.
She has just four 50-plus scores, and the opponents haven’t had too much trouble planning against her. You can either target her with short deliveries or get the ball to come back in. Or else, Shafali herself will find a way to throw her wicket away.
She has 536 runs in 23 ODIs so far. However, 155 of those have come against Sri Lanka in just three innings. If you look at her numbers against Australia, England and New Zealand, Shafali has an average of below 20 against each of them. In 16 innings against the aforementioned three teams, the batter has only managed to collect 282 runs @ 17.62 and a strike rate of 73.3.
Moreover, Shafali has scores 1, 4, 0, 8 and 1 in her last five ODI innings and that would have triggered the management, saying enough is enough. If you need further validation, amongst openers who have scored at least 500 runs since 2021, Shafali has the worst average (24.36) and balls/dismissal (29.2).
Only 10 times she has managed to bat through the powerplay and Jonathan Batty, her coach in Delhi Capitals, believes she needs to balance her power-hitting with rotation of strike. The 49-year-old, however, doesn’t want her to change her game style.
“If you look at the very best batters in the world. They are the ones who are excellent in the powerplay and will maximise the two fielders’ outside the 30 yards. But once the restriction is lifted, you obviously have to keep the scoreboard moving in that middle over,” Batty told the Indian Express.
“That’s the difference between a good batter making a good 40 or 50 to a great who is scoring match-winning 80s or even a hundred. It is the 80s and 100s which really takes the game away from the opposition.
“You have to remember Shafali is still so young still. She is learning all the time. By forcing her to change her game, we don’t want to lose her exciting strokeplay because that’s her super strength. But she will have to make those little adjustments in her game …”
That’s not it, Shafali has an average of 22.32 in 46 T20Is since 2021. In between, the opener has done well in the Women's Premier League and other domestic competitions but has struggled big-time in international cricket.
There are too many flaws in her game at the moment, and until and unless she goes back to the drawing board, Shafali will have a hard time surviving at the highest level.
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