Sydney: Teenage prodigy Shafali Verma has not only lit up the ICC Women's T20 World Cup with her explosive batting but the "naughty" teenager has also added immense happiness and positivity to the Indian team off the field, feels captain Harmanpreet Kaur. The 16-year-old Shafali Verma has scored 161 runs at a stunning strike rate of 161 in Australia, setting the tone for India's four Group A victories with fearless batting despite being in her first global tournament.
Ahead of Thursday's semifinal showdown with England at the Sydney Cricket Ground, her captain acknowledged what the fresh-faced teenager has offered India behind the scenes. "She's very naughty, gets so much happiness and positivity to the team, always wants to enjoy it," Kaur said.
"And when batting with her she's motivating you and releasing pressure, that kind of player you need in your team. Whoever is playing, wants to play for the country and give their best, she's enjoying for the team," she added.
Kaur said since this Indian side has been together for a while, it has now built a conducive environment for youngsters like Verma to prosper. "Now this team has been together for a long time, we learn a lot from each other, learn a lot of cricket. It makes it easier for players such as Shafali because when anybody enters the team, they see everyone is working together. "They also feel nice and try to do what others are doing,"she said.
The skipper, herself known to be a power-hitter, has endured a poor start to the tournament by failing to reach double digit scores.
Kaur insisted that everyone in the team is being handed out their roles to ensure that the side continues to perform well. "Right now, what we are trying to do, is give individual roles so that everyone can come and perform for the team. I didn't perform with the bat but the team is doing well and we are enjoying that. That is more important for us."
Verma has certainly been in form Down Under but there's no getting away from India's disappointing women's T20 World Cup record against England. They have never beaten Heather Knight's side in the competition, a run which includes an eight-wicket defeat in the 2018 semifinals.
But India are riding a wave in Australia, with an opening-night victory over the hosts paving the way for a flawless group stage. "After losing the last semifinal, as a team we realised that we have to work as a unit, and right now you will see that our team is working as a unit and we are not reliant on just one or two players," Kaur said.
"We just need to keep doing the right things and just focus on the right things instead of worrying about the past. We cannot change that, we are looking positive and I hope we will play as a team and try to win," she added.