The players who made India the first-ever ICC Under-19 Women’s T20 World champions!
India recently became the first-ever ICC Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup Champions, after a comprehensive, seven-wicket victory over England in Potchefstroom. Shefali Verma led the team and managed to achieve what their seniors could not do by clearing the final hurdle and lifting the trophy! India first burdened England with 68 in 17.1 overs and then returned to completely knock off the team target in 14 overs. This win reaffirms India’s dominance at the U-19 level, especially with the women’s team.
But what’s a team without star players? And what’s a win without a champion? India lifted the trophy with the hard work of dozens of players who gave their blood and sweat. Here are a few players whose life stories are greater than the win at the global event.
The Top Individual Performers
Her mother, Savitri Devi, was called a witch (Daayan) after she lost her husband and son to a snake bite. The family blamed her for bringing the misfortune and sending her daughter off to the wrong path and villagers isolated her. But Devi, firmly believed that her daughter Archana would bring glory to her family. Savitri enrolled Archana at the ‘Kasturba Gandhi Awasiya Balika Vidyalaya’, an all-girls boarding school in Ganj Moradabad, a few kilometers away from their hometown Unnao in Uttar Pradesh. Soon, whispers spread across the village that Archana was instead sold by her mother.
“Ladki ko bech diya, ladki ko galat dhande mey daal diya hai, ye saari baatein mere muh pe bolte they,” says Savitri Devi. (I have sold my daughter, and set her off on the wrong path, they would say this to my face.)
During the pandemic, her elder brother, Rohit, also lost his job at the clothing factory. Amid financial and personal atrocities, Savitri Devi did her best and kept going. Archana’s late brother Buddiman would play cricket with her every day, he wanted his sister to play for the national team. When he died, his last words were ‘Archana ko cricket khilao’ (Let Archana play cricket). This motivated Archana to achieve her dreams. She practiced until noticed by her coach Punam Gupta, who then contacted Kapil Pandey, the coach of Indian cricketer Kuldeep Yadav. Archana provided the crucial breakthrough in the U19 World Cup final for India, taking the wickets of England’s Grace Scrivens and Niamh Holland.
Hailing from Rohtak, Haryana, Shefali Verma is the youngest cricketer to play in a Women’s T20 International match for India. She is also the youngest player ever to have represented India in all three formats of international cricket. Living in the small town of Rohtak, Verma, just like the rest didn’t have access to women’s cricket academies. Therefore, with her father’s support, she decided to disguise herself as a boy to get her training.
Verma played for Velocity in the Women’s T20 Challenge before finally joining international cricket. She was named to the Women’s Twenty20 International (WT20I) squad for the series against South Africa, where she made her WT20I debut for India at the age of 15 in 2019. In the same tournament, she became the youngest half-centurion for India in international cricket in India’s match against West Indies. In January 2020, she was selected for the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia and got a contract with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
Bringing the cricketer out of Trisha, her father Gongadi Reddy even sold his land to get her training. Among his many sacrifices, he quit his job and when short on money, he even sold his gym at half the price. He shifted to Sikandrabad to make his daughter’s dream come true and sold four acres of land so that Trisha does not face any financial problems. At the age of only 8, she played the Under 16 team, and by the age of 12, she was selected for Hyderabad’s Under 19 and Under 23 teams.
Gongadi Trisha scored 24 runs while batting in the middle order at Under-19 Women’s Cricket World Cup final. She played this inning at a time when Team India had lost 2 wickets for 20 runs. In the entire Under-19 T20 World Cup, she performed brilliantly while batting in the middle order. Trisha is a right-handed batter and a right-arm leg-spinner from Hyderabad who has been doing exceptionally well in the domestic circuit.
Hailing from Delhi, Shweta, and her elder sister, both took upon the sport from an early age. Her Father Sanjay Sehrawat took them academy every day. Shweta started playing cricket when she was just 8 years old, she would compete with the boys with a tennis ball until she was noticed by her coach who instructed her to start using leather balls. Shweta played volleyball and cricket leading her team to win every match. Her interest peaked in cricket during the women’s T20 World Cup match between India and Pakistan. She insisted her father take her to Ferozeshah Kotla to watch the match.
Her life changed when she was selected for the India U-19 team led by Captain Shefali Verma. But Shweta soon turned to academics and wished to complete her graduation. Therefore, she wrote to NCA that would not be able to attend the U-19 camp as she has her board exams coming. Much to her surprise, NCA head VVS Laxman made an exception and asked her to join later. Sehrawat has a strike rate of 96.3 with an average of 11.42 in 83 WDT20 balls.
The prodigious pacer of the India U19 women’s team, Falak Naz, has braved poverty and landed in ICC Women’s U19 T20 World Cup 2023. Falak’s father, Nasir Ahmad works as a peon in a school. Her mother is a homemaker who is busy taking care of her ailing grandparents. She also has an elder brother, who had to give up his aspirations of higher studies to work at a local cycle repair shop.
Hailing from a conservative society where women were only restricted to household chores, Falaks aspired big. With her father’s support, she was enrolled in Dr. Kailash Nath Katju Inter-College, in Prayagraj. The school was among the rare ones in the locality to have a girls’ cricket team and the coach- former cricketer, Ajay Yadav ran an academy for girls. Falak was trained under him since she was 12. She played exceptionally well during the first year of training and her coach decided to let her play significantly against the boys. In only one year, she got a chance to play in a BCCI-organised tournament.
Yet life had different plans for her, Falak sustained a life-threatening injury. But miraculously, instead of letting it become an obstacle, she ended up utilizing it to learn leg spin instead. Today, she remains a medium pacer and can also bowl leg spin if needed.