Potchefstroom, Jan 29 (IANS): Holding the inaugural U19 Women's T20 World Cup trophy was the only birthday gift Shafali Verma wanted ahead of the finale against England at the JB Marks Oval in Potchefstroom.
On Sunday, just a day after turning 19, Shafali got her wish fulfilled when India beat England by seven wickets to lift the country's first-ever global trophy in women's cricket. As the magnitude of the achievement finally began to sink in, Shafali had tears of happiness and called it "an incredible feeling".
"The way all the girls are performing and backing each other, so happy. Incredible feeling. Thanks to the staff, the way they have been backing us every day and telling us that we are here for the cup and because of them we are here. All thanks to them. The players have been backing me a lot," she said in the post-match presentation ceremony.
Three years ago, Shafali had to be consoled by her teammates when India were bundled out for 99 in chasing 185 against Australia in the 2020 Women's T20 World Cup final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Now, with tears of joy during the post-match presentation ceremony at Potchefstroom in 2023, she and Indian women's cricket have indeed come a long way.
"Thanks to BCCI for giving me this beautiful team and really happy for winning the cup. She (Shweta Sehrawat) has been excellent and has followed all the plans made by the staff. Not just her, Archana, Soumya and I can't really take the names but they all have been incredible," she added.
Despite becoming the first-ever winning captain of the inaugural U19 Women's T20 World Cup, Shafali is still not done yet. "No, the big one also," she replied when asked if the U19 World Cup is the only major trophy she's going to lift this year, hinting at the upcoming Women's T20 World Cup, to be held from February 10-26 in South Africa.
Fast bowler Titas Sadhu, who became Player of the Match for her amazing spell of 2/6 in four overs, including 20 dot balls, called this feeling of being a World Champion 'really surreal'.
"Have been looking forward to this day for a long time. We had a plan in our minds, and thankfully we executed what we planned. The spinners backed up really well. We have played 2 matches and watched all the games that happened here, and had a pretty good idea where to bowl."
At the helm of it was head coach Nooshin Al Khadeer, who was a part of the India squad that came runners-up to Australia in the 2005 ODI World Cup final.
"A lot of people have been telling us that a lot of athletes have tried this and couldn't get it, so it is the first Indian cup for the women's side and we are all ecstatic. It will make a huge difference back home."
"The first time BCCI took us under, it was in 2005 Nooshin mam played that World Cup and we lost the finals. For us to win it and for her to be our coach, it's really very special. Want to thank everyone who practised with me and supported me so far. I want to thank them (fans and supporters back home) with all my heart."