Sushma Verma makes her opportunity count on the big stage

Velocity’s collective karma for lack of batting depth comment came back to haunt them when the top-order crumbled from a wicket off the second ball of the contest – even before the first runs of the game had been scored – to 37 for 5 halfway through the eighth over of the Women’s T20 Challenge finale on Saturday. With the likes of Danielle Wyatt, Mithali Raj and Veda Krishnamurthy, that the team heavily relied on, back in the hut this time, the management did not have a choice but to wield their “inexperienced” lower-order.That second half of Velocity’s batting incidentally comprises four internationally capped players – and all all-rounders at that – with the least experienced one playing internationals for New Zealand since the age of 17. Ironically enough, all of them went on to play a small but significant part as Velocity gave Supernovas a run for their money even with a sub-par score of 121 for 6 and nearly managed to upstage the defending champions.Padded up earlier than what most remember seeing of her, wicketkeeper-bat Sushma Verma awaited her chance amidst the rubble, but with visibly less worry lines on her forehead. Not so long ago she was a part of the Indian dug-out, only to be pushed out about 12 months ago on account of lack of performance despite being slated in to bat at No. 8 or lower and more often than not, remaining under-utilised as a performer with the bat she had been for Himachal, Railways and then Himachal again over these years.At Velocity, a pre-decided opportunity to bat at No. 6 was her chance to reverse that trend and showcase her true potential when given the backing to play up the order. And boy, she latched on to the lifeline in some style! Coming in to bat when the chips were down, Verma top-scored with an unbeaten 32-ball 40, laced with positivity. Crucially, her 71-run association with Amelia Kerr (36 off 38) for the sixth wicket played a massive part in transferring the pressure back on Supernovas.The pair showed the tactical nuance and kind of application their top-order lacked in the high-stakes contest. Verma worked with a foreign 18-year-old batting prodigy, who by the way holds the record for the highest individual WODI score of 232*, to pinch singles in the gaps, run hard between the wickets to steal extra runs and duly punish the loose balls that came their way – all of that contributing towards the team’s fighting 121.