In the wrestling-based movie, Dangal, starring Aamir Khan, the main protagonist Mahavir Singh Phogat had cut his daughter’s hair short as it was an obstacle in their practice. The same incident has come true in cricket as well. Take the case of upcoming woman cricketer Shafali Verma, who became the youngest T20I debutant for India at 15 years in the series against South Africa recently.
But Shafali’s father Sanjeev has to do it for an altogether different reason. Shafali’s father Sanjeev, who makes jewellery in Rohtak near New Delhi, gave his daughter a ‘boy’s haircut’ so that she can pass off as a male child and play in the local cricket academy.
He told a media organisation that no one was willing to accept a girl in their cricket academy for the fear of her getting hurt. Even when Sanjeev said he takes full responsibility for it, the local academy refused to budge.
But Sanjeev was determined to get his daughter admitted and help her get the training in cricket.
He then came up with the idea of a boy’s haircut to trick the people. He said at 8 or 9 years of age, all kids look the same and this helped his daughter to pass off as a male child to get admission into a local cricket academy. She played with the male kids of her age during the weekends at the cricket coaching institute.
However, Shafali’s father hit a roadblock when he has to admit her for professional training. Luckily, he found an academy that takes both male and female cricketers, but it was 10 kilometres away from their home. Sanjeev said Shafali used to cycle to the grounds daily for practice.
Sanjeev said he even had to endure neighbour’s taunts for getting his daughter to join cricket coaching. However, he said he was determined to see Shafali make a career in cricket.
The father-daughter duo’s hard work has paid off finally. Shafali made her international debut recently in the T20I series against South Africa. She started with a duck but made a match-winning 46 in the next match. India won the series 3-1. Shafali has also booked a tour to West Indies next.
Sanjeev said the same neighbours now praise his daughter after she made her international debut for India.
Sanjeev said the two are die-hard fans of Sachin Tendulkar. Sanjeev said they rarely missed a match of Sachin. They went to see Sachin bat in his last first-class game at Haryana.
Sanjeev’s younger son Sahil and younger daughter Nancy are also into cricket and are inspired by their elder sister Shafali to make it big in international cricket.