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Two-time Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) champions Sydney Sixers have signed up Indian players Shafali Verma and Radha Yadav ahead of seventh season of the tournament. The announcement comes a day after Smriti Mandhana and Deepti Sharma were announced to join defending champions Sydney Thunder.
“This is a very good opportunity for me,” Shafali said in a statement by the club on Monday 27 Sept. “My goal is to enjoy myself, make some new friends and have fun.”
On Sunday, Shafali scored 56, her maiden half-century in ODIs as India ended Australia’s 26-match winning streak.
In the Sydney Sixers, she is expected to open the batting alongside Australia’s Alyssa Healy.
Shafali will reunite with Ben Sawyer, the coach at Sixers who also served as head coach at Birmingham Pheonix in The Hundred.
“Shafali is very impressive,” Sawyer said. “She’s such a talent and she’s fearless. She hits to different areas of the field and plays shots that are different to the other three girls in that top four. The experience I had with her in Birmingham was that she wants to learn, she wants to get better and she wants to grow as a player and a person.”
Radha, who sits at eleventh place in the women’s T20I rankings, was excited about her maiden stint in the WBBL. “Lots of young Indian girls want to play in the WBBL. It is a very good standard, and I am so happy to be able to play for the Sixers this year.”
Radha, the left-arm spinner, is a part of India’s squad for the T20I series against Australia in October.
Sawyer was welcoming of Radha becoming a part of Sixers squad. “Radha brings a skillset that we have never had at the Sixers and that’s very exciting. I think a left-arm ortho bowler is so important in the WBBL and having one who is world class is such a great opportunity for this team. She has also batted in the middle of the order for India so she is handy with the bat too.”
The seventh season of WBBL will start on October 14 with Sydney Sixers taking on Melbourne Stars at Blundstone Arena in Hobart.
Meanwhile, defending champions Sydney Thunder will look to start their title defence with Smriti Mandhana and Deepti Sharma in their team.
The pair will replace England’s Heather Knight and Tammy Beaumont who have declared their inability to participate in the tournament.
Sydney Thunder coach Trevor Griffin said the Indian players bring “an extra edge to the club”.
They were identified by Thunder as quality players with the ability to make an explosive impact on the T20 competition, a club statement said on Sunday.
On 24 Sept, Mandhana starred for India in a nail-biting, final-ball loss to Australia in Mackay. Her innings of 86 from 94 balls was highlighted by 11 boundaries, and it helped set up India’s competitive total of 274 runs.
Sharma made her presence felt in the ODI match described as one of the most thrilling played in Australia, with a knock of 23 runs and by capturing Tahlia McGrath’s wicket.
Griffin, who has worked with Mandhana in England, was excited by the thought of the left-handed opener adding her firepower to the side. “She’s world class,” said Griffin, of the player named the 2018 ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year. “Smriti is an opening batter who has the tremendous ability to take everything in her stride.
“I like that she keeps her game really simple; she just wants to score runs. I’m delighted to have her on board, and I have no doubt that she’ll prove to be a great addition to Thunder.”
Mandhana, who broke through to be ranked among the world’s top three T2OI batters last July, said she would embrace the pressure on her to perform as one of Thunder’s overseas players.
“I like it, it always helps,” said the 25-year-old of the demands. “Playing in overseas leagues gives you a lot of experience, especially in the T20 format. Then, of course, you exchange so much experience with other players from over the world… so you get to learn a lot. Rather than pressure, I always look at it as an opportunity to learn.”
Griffin described Deepti Sharma as one that only allowed Thunder to “usher a genuine talent” into the WBBL.
“While it’s disappointing not to be able to have Heather back, if you could choose any replacement for her it would be Deepti – she’s also a star,” said Griffin. “She offers a lot with the bat – Deepti is a match winner – and she also has the talent to bowl in the powerplay, during the middle of a match, or at the death. Deepti is a great addition to the Thunder, and I have no doubt she’ll go a long way to helping us in this year’s competition.”
The 24-year-old said she was thrilled to sign with Thunder, because after starring in England’s Super League and The Hundred, it was her goal to play in the WBBL.
“This is my first time [in the WBBL], so I’m excited,” she said. “I’ve had offers before, but I couldn’t play at the time because we had [an international] series on.”
Sydney Thunder begin their WBBL-07 campaign against the Adelaide Strikers on October 16 in Hobart.
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