Eighteen-year-old opening batter Shafali Verma will lead India at the inaugural Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa early next year. She will be one of two senior India players at the event apart from wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh.
Shweta Sehrawat, who is currently leading the Under-19s in a five-match T20 series against a New Zealand Women’s development side in Mumbai, has been named Shafali’s deputy.
In picking Shafali and Ghosh, India have diverged from the path taken by England’s selectors, who left senior players Alice Capsey and Freya Kemp out of their squad for the Under-19 tournament. The move, however, was aimed at managing their workloads keeping in mind England’s upcoming tour of the West Indies and the senior Women’s T20 World Cup in February next year. It could also mean that Shafali and Ghosh will not be part of the tri-series India’s senior side plays against South Africa and West Indies in the lead-up to the Women’s T20 World Cup 2023.
Shafali has represented India in 46 T20Is, 21 ODIs and two Tests, while Ghosh has played 25 T20Is and 17 ODIs. Ghosh is 19, but she is eligible to take part in the tournament since she was born after the cut-off date of birth of August 31, 2003.
Apart from Shafali and Ghosh, India’s batting will be led by Sehrawat, Gongadi Trisha, Soumya Tiwari and Soniya Mendhiya. Trisha and Tiwari are leading the run-charts in the ongoing series against the New Zealand Women’s development team with 115 and 106 respectively. In the Women’s Under-19 T20 Challenger Trophy, Trisha scored 117 runs – the second-most behind Sehrawat’s 163. Sehrawat also topped the charts in the Quadrangular Women’s Under-19 T20 series, which also featured Sri Lanka and West Indies.
Mendhiya, like captain Shafali, plays for Haryana in the Women’s Under-19 circuit and bats in the middle order apart from bowling offspin. She scored 187 runs in six innings of the Women’s Under-19 T20 Trophy at a strike rate of 105.05. In the Quadrangular series, she scored 67 at a strike rate of 134 to go with four wickets.
Fast bowlers Titas Sadhu and Hurley Gala will lead the pace attack with Falak Naz and Shabnam MD also in the mix. Sadhu picked up five wickets in the T20 Challenger Trophy and also picked up two wickets in the four matches she played for Bengal in the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy earlier this season. Gala also offers a power-hitting option to go with her fast bowling.
Hrishita Basu could be used as the backup wicketkeeper to Ghosh. Interestingly, neither Shafali nor Ghosh were part of the various Under-19 competitions held in the lead-up to the World Cup.
Uttar Pradesh allrounder Shikha Shalot, Kerala bowler Najla CMC and Hyderabad seamer Yashashri have been named in the reserves.
India’s Under-19s will play five T20s against the South Africa Under-19s from December 27 to January 4 in Pretoria. They meet South Africa in their opening match of the World Cup too, on January 14 in Benoni.
India are in Group D of the Under-19 World Cup along with South Africa, UAE and Scotland in a tournament of 16 teams. The top three teams from each of the four groups will progress to the Super Six round, where teams will be pooled into two groups of six each. The top two teams from each group will then progress to the semi-finals, which will be played on January 27 in Potchefstroom, followed by the final on the same ground on January 29.
Squad: Shafali Verma (capt), Shweta Sehrawat (vice-capt), Richa Ghosh (wk), G Trisha, Soumya Tiwari, Sonia Mendhiya, Hurley Gala, Hrishita Basu (wk), Sonam Yadav, Mannat Kashyap, Archana Devi, Parshavi Chopra, Titas Sadhu, Falak Naz, Shabnam MD.
Standby players: Shikha Shalot, Najla CMC, Yashashri
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