Beverage major PepsiCo has roped in 16-year old Indian cricketer Shafali Verma as one of its brand ambassadors for one year, the Economic Times reported quoting sources. Pepsi will be Shafali's first contract with a major brand. The beverage firm recently signed Bollywood star Salman Khan as its face for two years.
Shafali is hailed as one of the promising talents to watch out for in women's cricket. The explosive top-order batswoman is currently playing the ICC Women's T20I World Cup, where India will take on Australia in the final in Melbourne on March 8.
Shafali Verma entered the history books as she became the youngest woman cricketer to play for India when she debuted against South Africa. The teenager recently claimed the top spot in International Cricket Council (ICC) T20I rankings, becoming the youngest Indian to top any ICC list.
In recent times, many Indian women cricketers have been gaining ground in the brand world, thanks to the team's consistent and commendable on-field performance. However, when compared with the size of contracts India’s male cricketers bag, the discrepancies are glaring.
Some of the top players in the women's team — Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur — have recently landed several brands in their endorsement kitty. Mandhana has five endorsements under her belt: Hero MotoCorp (bat sponsorship), Bata’s sportswear brand Power and Amstrad India, among others. Harmanpreet Kaur has been signed up for a CEAT endorsement.
Hailing from Haryana, Shafali Verma looks up to Sachin Tendulkar as her idol. She had dreamt of playing for India when she was nine years old. The story goes that, supported by her father, she got trained at a boys' cricket academy, as there were no academies for girls near her home. She disguised herself as a boy to train. She admitted that it was tough facing male bowlers at a young age, but the sheer passion to play for the country prepared her for future challenges.
The international cricketing world is already in awe of the teenage sensation. Former England captain Nasser Hussain recently took to Twitter to lavishly praise the teenager: "This girl can seriously play!," he said in his tweet. Celebrating her dominance at the crease, renowned sports broadcaster Harsha Bhogle compared her to Virender Sehwag.