It might not be part of classical cricket manuals, but many cricketers have tried to model their playing style on Sehwag’s.
One current cricketer who seems to have the same mindset is 17 year old Shafali Verma. Just like Sehwag, Shafali stands tall, watches the ball, takes a stride, gets her bat underneath the ball, and whacks it with full power. She believes in accelerating the team’s run rate from the word go.
“I always told her that you bat like Sehwag. She agrees as well. But she idolises Sachin Tendulkar. She says she wants to be like Sachin Tendulkar,” Shafali’s coach Ashwani Kumar told Timesofindia.com in an exclusive interview.
The 17-year-old Shafali impressed everyone with her power-packed batting against England Women in the recently-concluded one-off Test in Bristol. She smashed half-centuries in both innings, becoming only the fourth player in the history of women’s cricket to score a half-century in both innings of a debut Test.
Shafali missed out on a century in her debut innings, falling for 96 off 152 balls and then smashed 63 off 83 balls in the second innings. The match ended in a draw and the Rohtak girl was adjudged Player of the Match.
Ashwani Kumar has witnessed many Sehwag-like knocks from Shafali, but he still waits for a Sachin-kind-of innings from his student.
“After the match, she (Shafali) called me and asked ‘coach saab, mai kaisa kheli’ (Coach, how did I play?). I told her – ‘outstanding and keep it up’. I told her to keep playing match-winning knocks for the country. She had planned against every England bowler. When I told her to calm down a bit in some situations, she said – ‘I will play a Sachin Tendulkar-like innings when my team is in trouble’,” the coach further told TimesofIndia.com.
Shafali, who has also already played 22 T20Is for the Indian women’s team, could be a superstar in the making.
SHAFALI INSPIRED BY VIRAT KOHLI‘S FITNESS
India captain Virat Kohli is among the fittest athletes in the world. His physical transformation from his initial playing days to the lean and mean fighting machine he has become is an inspiration for many. Shafali is one of those who has been inspired by Virat.
“Shafali is following Virat to remain fit. That’s why she can play long innings and with the same intensity. She stopped having butter, ghee and junk food and now concentrates on her fitness. She has been inspired by Virat’s fitness and has been following his regime religiously,” Ashwani Kumar said.
“If you compare the Shafali of one year back to what she is now, you will see a lot of difference. Her sacrifices in giving up her favourite food and dishes have helped her take her game to the next level. The one-off Test match vs England was a major example of that,” Ashwani told TimesofIndia.com.
HOW PRACTISING WITH HARYANA RANJI TEAM HELPED SHAFALI’S GAME
Shafali was 12 when she was introduced to coach Ashwani at his academy in Rohtak. Just like every other student, Shafali was asked to pad up and face a few balls in the nets. Ashwini asked one of his senior players in the academy to bowl to Shafali.
A calm and composed Shafali put on her gear and got ready. The first ball she faced went straight over the bowler’s head. She hit three sixes in that over. Ashwani was amazed to see this raw talent, this very young player who was hitting the ball with sheer confidence.
“She was born with talent. Her ability to hit the ball has amazed many. She has earned praise from every quarter. Many times, she was advised to play patiently, but she believes in her game. And, I really appreciate her for this. I never asked her to change her style or stance,” Ashwani Kumar further said.
“She was way ahead of the players who were in her age group. When she was 15, I made her play with Under-19 cricketers. For this I want to thank Anirudh Chaudhary for the support,” the coach said.
To help Shafali take her game to the next level, Ashwani managed to draft her in the Haryana Ranji Trophy net bowlers/batsmen probables where she faced the Ranji Trophy bowlers.
“That step helped Shafali a lot. She was batting the way she usually does. Some senior players were also surprised with the way Shafali was making the bowlers toil hard in the nets,” Ashwani signed off.