Eighteen-year-old opening batsman Shafali Verma will lead India in the inaugural Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa early next year. She will be one of India’s two senior players in the event, apart from wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh.
Shweta Sehrawat, who is currently leading the Under-19s in a five-match T20 series against the New Zealand Women’s Development Team in Mumbai, has been appointed as Shafali’s deputy.
In picking Shafali and Ghosh, India have deviated from England’s selectors, who left senior players Alice Kepsey and Freya Kemp out of their squad for the Under-19 tournament. However, the move was aimed at managing her workload in view of 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 India’s senior team’s games in the Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 tri-series against South Africa and the West Indies.
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 is eligible to participate in the tournament as she was born after the cut-off date of birth of 31 August 2003.
Apart from Shafali and Ghosh, India’s batting will be led by Sehrawat, Gongadi Trisha, Soumya Tiwari and Sonia Mendhya. Trisha and Tiwary top the run charts with 115 and 106 respectively in the ongoing series against the New Zealand Women’s Development Team. In the Women’s Under-19 T20 Challenger Trophy, Trisha scored 117 runs, second only to Sohrawat’s 163. Sehrawat also topped the charts in the quadruple women’s U-19 T20 series, which also included Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
Mendhia, like skipper Shafali, plays for Haryana in the women’s under-19 circuit and bats in the middle order apart from off-spin bowling. She scored 187 runs at a strike rate of 105.05 in six innings of the Women’s Under-19 T20 Trophy. In the quadruple series, he scored 67 runs at a strike rate of 134 and took four wickets.
Pacers Tetas Sidhu and Harli Gala will lead the pace attack and Falknaz and Shabnam MD are also in the mix. Sadhu took five wickets in the T20 Challenger Trophy and also took two wickets in four matches for Bengal in the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy earlier this season. Gala also offers a power hitting option to go with his fast bowling.
Harshita Basu can be used as Ghosh’s backup wicketkeeper. Interestingly, neither Shafali nor Ghosh were part of the various competitions held before the U-19 World Cup.
Uttar Pradesh all-rounder Shikha Shalot, Kerala bowler Najala CMC and Hyderabad fast bowler Yashashree have been kept in reserve.
India’s U-19 team will play five T20Is against South Africa U-19 in Pretoria from December 27 to January 4. They will also meet South Africa in their World Cup opener in Benoni on January 14.
India are in Group D of the U-19 World Cup along with South Africa, UAE and Scotland in the 16-team tournament. The top three teams from each of the four groups will advance to the Super Six round where the teams will be divided into two groups of six. The top two teams from each group then advance to the semi-finals, which will be played in Potchefstroom on January 27, followed by the final at the same ground on January 29.
Squad: Shifali Verma (captain), Shweta Sehrawat (vice-captain), Richa Ghosh (wicket), G Trisha, Soumya Tiwari, Sonia Mendhya, Hurley Gala, Harshita Basu (wicket), Sonam Yadav, Manth Kashyap, Archana Devi, Parshvi Chopra, Titas Sadhu, Falaknaz, Shabnam MD.
Standby player: Shikha Shalot, Najla CMC, Yashashree.