Batting sensation Shafali Verma will chase history when she leads India against England in the first-ever ICC U-19 Women's T20 World Cup final in Potchefstroom on January 29, 2023.
For all their success at the international stage, the Indian women's cricket team has never won a World Cup at any level and the young batter, who has been part of two World Cup and one Commonwealth Games final with the senior team, will look to bring the elusive title home.
The seniors have made the World Cup final on three occasions across formats only to have returned with bitter memories — losing to Australia by 98 runs in 2005 and losing to England by 9 runs in 2017 in the ODIs, and in T20Is they went down in the 2020 final to the Aussies by 85 runs.
The youngster from Rohtak has been part of two World Cups across formats and she also witnessed another final defeat when India had settled for a silver medal in last year's Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
Shafali Verma, however, does not want to let go of the opportunity this time.
" Haan bahut finals khela hai (Yes, I've played a lot of finals and seen it all)," Shafali, who turned 19 on January 28, 2023, said on the eve of the final.
"It's about going out there and enjoying the game. I've told the teammates 'don't stress, just give your 100 percent without thinking of it as the final. Just believe in yourself." "It's all past and that cannot be recreated. We are determined to bring the World Cup this time and are trying to improve day by day," she added.
India suffered one defeat in the Super Six league stage where they lost to their 'nemesis' Australia after being bowled out for 87.
"We had nervous moments and couldn't sleep, thinking about whether we could make the final or not... But we have learnt from the mistakes and here we are.
"Now we're all very confident, clear of our roles. Everyone is enjoying each other's company and stay normal, we are not thinking much." Shafali has told her teammates not to think of her as the "senior".
"I may be senior to many of them but I've told them 'on the ground we all are equal' it's about keeping everyone comfortable," she said.
In the semifinal, India registered a dominating eight-wicket win after their bowlers restricted a powerful New Zealand side to an under-par 107/9.
Leg-spinner Parshavi Chopra led the bowling show by claiming 3/20, while Shafali went for just seven runs in her four overs, taking one wicket.
In reply, a ruthless half-century from the opening batter and the tournament's leading scorer, Shweta Sehrawat, saw India home.
Shweta finished unbeaten on 61 as India cantered home in 14.2 overs.
Personally, Shafali is also living her father's dream. She remembered her father Sanjeev Verma's words that she would one day win the World Cup.
"He has always told me that 'I'm the best and I will one day win the World Cup'. He kept pushing me always and here I'm because of all his and my family's sacrifices. Thank you papa for backing me. I will always be grateful to you and the whole family," Shafali signed off with a promise.
India will be up against a strong England side that topped its Super Six group by winning all the four matches.
They suffered a batting debacle in the semifinal against Australia when they folded for 99 in 19.5 overs. But they rode on a superlative bowling attack to restrict Australia to 96 in 18.4.
Leg-spinner Hannah Baker starred with a superb 3/10 from four overs, while captain Grace Scrivens delivered a dramatic conclusion, taking the final wicket to finish with extraordinary figures of 2/8 from 3.4 overs from her off-spin to go alongside her run-a-ball 20 with the bat.
"It was unbelievable to be a part of it. It's about resetting and going to the next game. We want to play with the positive mindset, and play fearless cricket. I'm sure yesterday's collapse will not affect us," Grace said.
With India too boasting a good spin attack, it will be a battle of both the team's spinners, she reckoned.
"Our spin attack is very good, India too have some good spinners. We have to come up well. If we bowl our best, keep it simple, we don't have to look too further, we can be really in a good space," she added.
India: Shafali Verma, Shweta Sehrawat, Gongadi Trisha, Soumya Tiwari, Sonia Mehdiya, Richa Ghosh, Hrishita Basu, Titas Sadhu, Mannat Kashyap, Parshavi Chopra, Sonam Yadav, Shabnam, Falak Naz and Yashasri Soppadhandhi
England: Grace Scrivens, Ellie Anderson, Hannah Bakers, Josie Groves, Liberty Heap, Niamh Holland, Ryana MacDonald-Gay, Emma Marlov, Charis Pavley, Davina Perrin, Lizzie Scott, Seren Smale, Sophia Smale, Alexa Stonehouse and Maddie Ward.
Match starts: 5.15pm IST.