Shafali has taken the pressure off me, says Mandhana
Star Indian opener Smriti Mandhana feels that her young partner Shafali Verma, who has been in great form in the ongoing T20 World Cup, has taken the pressure off her.
"Shafali has been a huge positive coming into the T20 side," said Mandhana. "The way she's going about her batting, it's so easy to bat alongside her.
"I used to score a lot of our runs in the last two of three years, especially in the powerplay, but now with Shafali coming in, she's getting the runs in the way I do. It makes the team more balanced," she added.
Once upon a time the absence of Mandhana for the opening overs would give India reason to worry, but not anymore according to the senior batter, with Shafali showing she's capable of filling her boots.
The 16-year-old has scored 68 runs across two games, including five sixes and seven fours, at an impressive strike rate of 212.
The teenager, who is making her T20 World Cup debut in Australia, picked up the Player of the Match award for her 39 runs against Bangladesh, a match which Mandhana missed after picking up viral fever.
"She's got a routine she likes to follow, and that's the best thing about her. No one has gone in and told her she has to change that," said the left-handed opener.
"I used to have a major role in powerplays, but Shafali is getting the quick runs in those first overs now too. She's made a huge impact and the team has become more balanced thanks to her.
"I don't think we'll be going into the game thinking about a total, but we will continue playing the way that is working for all of our batters," she added.
With the starts Shafali has made in the ongoing tournament, there's no surprise she is also the talk of India's next opponents New Zealand, whom they face at the Junction Oval on Thursday.
The White Ferns won their opener against Sri Lanka after captain Sophie Devine's record-breaking half-century, while for India, winning their third game in Melbourne could secure their progress to the semi-final stage.
While all eyes will be on Verma at the middle, Lea Tahuhu, the experienced New Zealand fast bowler, won't go easy on the youngster and still wants her bowling exploits to be the talk of the town.
"Personally, I love the thought of facing Shafali," said Tahuhu. "It makes me fire up a little bit more and I'm really looking forward to playing her.
"I actually played her in the T20 Challenge in India last year and I know she's not going to take a step back," she added.IANS