Captain Shafali’s superstitious daddy remains stickler for seating arrangement in Rohtak, till the Cup is won

It’s about an hour to go for the U 19 Women’s World Cup final between India and England and captain Shafali Verma’s father Sanjeev is walking around restlessly in the premises of the Shri Ram Academy in Rohtak where his daughter honed her skills. When asked what was running through his head, Sanjeev, who runs a small-scale imitation jewellery business, gave an answer apt for a shopkeeper. “Bas aaj women team ko bauni karni hai ji (I just want the women’s team to open their account),” father Sanjeev said.

He was referring to the missing World Cup trophy in the Indian women’s team’s cabinet. The closest India has been to wrapping their arms around a world trophy was back in 2017 in the 50-over format where they lost to England by 9 runs. But Sunday was India’s day. Although star batter Shafali, who got out for just 15 while chasing virtually a no-pressure target of 69, didn’t have a great day by her standards, the joy of lifting India’s maiden women’s World Cup trophy will bury any disappointments for good.

It was a sleepless night for Shafali’s father who has never shied away from going the distance for his daughter’s sporting pursuits. He gets a touch emotional as he recalls Shafali’s early days when the now India star and her brother Sahil would hop on to the back of the two-wheeler every morning looking for a spot to practise. “During summers we left home by 5:30 looking for any empty patch to just play. Those things will forever remain here (points towards his heart), ” he says, while his eyes go moist.

Superstitious dad

At the screening, attended by Shafali’s family and academy mates, father Sanjeev appeared to be the calmest. But it was obvious there was a storm raging inside. Behind the smile, there was a lot of pressure and anxiety. He could be seen chanting prayers and incessantly asking a relative seated next to him to tone down the celebrations during the match. “Hold on. The match isn’t over,” he told the relative in a stern tone.


Shafali’s father is very particular about the seating arrangement during the game. Since India performed immaculately in the first innings he didn’t want much tinkering with seating positions in the second innings. But when Shafali came on to bat, he found a friend in place of his relative.

Shafali’s parents Sanjeev and Parveen with their younger daughter Nancy. (Pic: Andrew Amsan)

It was a bit comical to see Sanjeev turn his face towards the friend with a disapproving look on it when Shafali got dismissed as he said: “Yahan baithke out karwa diya (You sat here and now Shafali’s dismissed).” The friend probably took it to heart and felt it was best to move to the last row.

It was a proud moment for coach Sandeep, who has spent a lot of time with Shafali at the nets. “She used to try to hit every ball. I had to tell her on so many occasions to just go after the bad balls. Her natural strength is no secret and her reach is amazing,” says Sandeep.

At the academy, Shafali has been a revered figure much before today’s Cup glory. Each player has a story to share about Shafali and the common theme seems to be “she went hard.” 18-year-old Rahul Rathi still remembers the sixes she smashed against him during a game. “He got hit for three sixes in a row,” joked another academy mate. “I wasn’t hit for consecutive sixes but I was hit over a rope,” clarified Rahul who appears to be well over six feet tall.

Pacer Komal Sadhyam, who has played U19 for Haryana state, had no qualms in admitting that she feared a little while bowling to Shafali at the nets. “She used to hit real hard and in the nets sometimes it’s hard to spot the ball and there are chances of getting injured. But I enjoyed the contest against her,” says pacer Komal.

Shafali’s mother with relatives. (Credit: Andrew Amsan)

Back to the screening. The match has reached its business end and Sanjeev seems even more irritated with the constant change of seats to give a better view to the sea of cameras taking position right in front of the screen. To evade the cameras a print news reporter dared to change his seat but Sanjeev asked him to return. “Let them take their photos later. You sit right next to me,” Sanjeev told the reporter even as camera persons insisted he leaves the frame.

But Sanjeev was firm. “Ab Cup jeetne ka baad hee uthenge (Now we’ll rise up only after sealing the win.)”

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