WV Raman bats for game-changer Shafali Verma in Tests too

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Cites her ability to demoralise opponents as key quality

India Women’s outgoing head coach WV Raman believes 17-year-old opener Shafali Verma‘s game-changer of a batting approach could “demoralise” opposition bowlers in Test cricket too. Verma, who has so far represented India only in T20Is, is part of the ODI and Test squads as well for the all-format England tour next month. India are also set to tour Australia, where they will play a pink-ball Test in September.

“If a batter goes on to psychologically demoralise the opposition bowlers in the first 45 minutes to one hour, I would take that any day in any format,” Raman told Sports Today. “Let’s say in a four-day game or a Test match you are as it is looking to play out, if at all you happen to bat first.

“Sometimes there could be a bit of reluctance to bat first if you win the toss for various reasons, but if you have someone in your side who can go out…some players are like that, they don’t care what the conditions are, who they are up against, they would back themselves and they’ll go after the bowlers and demoralise them.”

Verma, currently the top-ranked T20I batter in the ICC women’s rankings, is known for her hard-hitting approach at the top and boasts of a T20I strike rate of 148.31. Raman cited Prithvi Shaw’s example from the Under-19 level to underline Verma’s ability to play a similar role across formats.

“Like I saw Prithvi Shaw doing in the Under-19 side in 2017,” Raman said. “He would go there and get a 70-80 in no time. And by the time he got out and by the time you had a drinks break, you suddenly see the score close to 90 or 100. The issue is settled straightaway and imagine it provides you advantages in every respect. Not only does it make it very disconcerting for the bowlers in the opposition camp, it provides great confidence to the batters going next in your own side. What more do you need? It’s priceless.”

Raman was also asked if the Indian team lacked an explosive finisher in ODIs and if the team management should consider moving Verma down the order in the format to collect more runs towards the end. “If they can find somebody who can do that from 35-50 overs, have them in the side, and have Shafali also in the side, why restrict yourself to either Shafali Verma or somebody at the bottom? Just have as many bazookas as you can and launch them mercilessly.”

Verma made her international debut less than two years ago and has 22 T20Is to her name with 617 runs at an average of nearly 30. In T20Is since her debut in September 2019, Verma has been the second-highest run-scorer only behind Beth Mooney, she has the second-best strike rate after Alyssa Healy’s 155.95 (minimum 10 innings) and she has struck the most sixes (29) in the period.

With her explosive batting style, she has already signed deals for The Hundred in England this summer, the WBBL in Australia later this year, and she got her maiden ODI and Test call-ups for the upcoming England tour. On Wednesday, the BCCI also handed her a Category B annual contract worth INR 30 lakh, a promotion from her Category C contract last year.

Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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