Seven months ago, Shweta Sehrawat almost missed the bus for the India Under-19 squad due to her Class XII board exams. On Saturday, she slammed a blistering 57-ball 92 in India’s thumping seven-wicket win over hosts South Africa in the Women’s T20 World Cup.
In May last year, Shweta Sehrawat wrote a letter to National Cricket Academy (NCA) chief VVS Laxman, citing she won’t be able to make it to the women’s U-19 camp, scheduled from May 15 to June 9 due to her XIIth board. But Laxman, who had heard about Shweta’s batting, replied, “at least attend a few days of the camp”.
Shweta joined the camp on June 3, and played a couple of matches. In the last game, she hit a century and was picked for the NCA’s zonal team, where she reeled out two more tons in six matches.
“We had given up hope. It was VVS (Laxman) sir, who convinced us to send her even if it was for two or three days. He just wanted to see her bat, and she managed to impress the great man,” Shweta’s father Sanjay Sehrawat told The Indian Express.
FIFTY! 👏🏻#TeamIndia vice-captain Shweta Sehrawat brings up a fine half-century as we move to 121/2 after 11 overs.
— BCCI Women (@BCCIWomen) January 14, 2023
On Sunday, chasing a stiff target of 167, Shweta spearheaded India’s chase to seal the match with 21 balls to spare. Shweta and Shafali Verma (45 off 16b; 9×4, 1×6) were off to a flier, with the Indian captain hitting nine boundaries and a six. The duo put on 77 in seven overs. And once Shafali got out, Shweta, team’s vice-captain, took charge, showing her full range of strokes. She drove, cut, pulled and used her feet against the spinners.
Deepti Dhyani, Shweta’s coach for the past five years at the Karnail Singh Stadium, lauded her fearless approach against South Africa.
“Match khatam karne wala player hai (She is someone who finishes the match). She is fearless and an aggressive batter. When Shafali was going bonkers, she dropped anchor, happily rotating the strike. The moment Shafali got out, Shweta turned aggressive,” said Deepti.
Shweta’s knock was studded with 20 boundaries and the 18-year-old showed her wide range of strokes.
“She plays spin very well. She uses her feet extremely well and is a very busy player; she dictates the proceedings. She is a bottom-handed player, she can hit boundaries at will,” added Deepti.
Sanjay Sehrawat, a real estate agent by profession, vividly recalls how it all started for Shweta.
“I used to take my elder daughter (Swati) to Sonnet Cricket Club and Shweta would just accompany me. She would insist on playing with her sister, but I never gave it much attention because she was too young. A few months later, we shifted Swati to a cricket academy in Vasant Kunj. It was a boys’ academy and the coach asked one of them to bowl at Shweta with a tennis ball. I still remember her first shot, straight down the ground. For a seven-year-old playing fearlessly against the U-14 boys, I was shocked. Next day, I got her all the kits and her cricketing journey started,” recalled Sanjay.
Talking about her daughter’s aggressive style of batting, Sanjay credits it to her playing with the boys for almost four years.
“There were only two girls in that academy. For almost four years, she played with the boys and that toughened her and the fear factor was gone,” he said.
Shweta has been a consistent run-getter since India’s build-up towards the World Cup. In the U-19 T20 Challenger Trophy held in November last year, she scored 163 runs in four innings at a strike rate of 111.64. Later that month, she topped the run chart in the quadrangular series that featured West Indies, Sri Lanka, and two teams from India. Shweta amassed 164 runs at an impressive strike rate of 151.85.
Before the U-19 World Cup, Shweta was named India’s skipper against New Zealand during the five-match series. Before the tournament, BCCI roped in two senior India players Shafali Verma and wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh in the squad. Shweta was named Shafali’s deputy.
Against South Africa, Shweta showed why she could be one to watch out for despite the presence of two international cricketers in the team.
South Africa: 166 for 5 in 20 overs (Simone Lourens 61, Madison Landsman 32; Shafali Verma 2/31)
India: 170 for 3 in 16.3 overs (Shweta Sehrawat 92 not out, Shafali Verma 45; Miane Smit 1/15)