When Shivam Mavi picked up four wickets in a T20I against Sri Lanka on Tuesday, 3 January, he became only the third male Indian cricketer to register a four-fer on his T20I debut. Barring that, he also became the fourth player from the 2018 India U19 squad to represent the senior team. His journey, however, is markedly different from that of his predecessors.
Prithvi Shaw’s ‘class of 2018' is often regarded as the best Indian U19 men's team. Under the stewardship of Rahul Dravid, the team not only became world champions but also outplayed almost every single opponent who had the audacity to stand in their way.
It seemed certain that the prodigious batch would produce a few superstars in the not-so-distant future. The prophecy did not turn out to be mere braggadocio, as Shaw made his debut for the senior team that same year.
A year later, his opening partner, Shubman Gill, also had the opportunity to don the Indian kit, followed by pacer Arshdeep Singh.
While three of his teammates rose to prominence in the national team, pacer Shivam Mavi was busy giving a stern test of patience and composure.
Nine wickets in the U19 World Cup helped him earn a lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) contract with Kolkata Knight Riders. Albeit it was not quite setting the stage on fire, but nine matches in his debut season, in a deal which paid Rs 3 crores per year, seemed nothing short of a dream.
Mavi was an exception in many regards, bowling at 145 kmph whilst being a teenager. However, his dream was not an exception, as it also met a harsh reality check. A check, as vexatious and lamentable as it could possibly have been.
How Injuries Halted Shivam Mavi’s Progress
In 2019, the Meerut-born player suffered an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury. Just as he was making a cautious comeback, the youngster was derailed yet again, this time with a stress fracture.
The culmination of the two had a two-pronged effect on the player—firstly, Mavi’s growth was halted at a very crucial juncture, with the injuries ruling him out of the sport for about a year, but to add to it, the most lethal weapon in his arsenal was not as lethal anymore—his pace took a significant dip.
Before 2023, Mavi saw the IPL contract slip out of his grasp, but what still remained in his control was his performance in domestic cricket. And this time, the 24-year-old was scripting his own dream, unwilling to let any incomprehensible phenomenon curb his efforts again.
Making the Most of Domestic Tournaments
First on the list was the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. The tournament went according to expectations, with Mavi being Uttar Pradesh’s leading wicket-taker with 10 scalps. The next competition, the Vijay Hazare Trophy, went a degree further to exceed all expectations, as the bowler scalped 14 wickets. Yet again, being the best in his team.
Those two campaigns, in collaboration with the promise he has been exhibiting since 2018, proved to be enough to hand him a place in the T20I squad against Sri Lanka. With his U19 colleague Arshdeep Singh down with illness, Mavi’s chance came much earlier than expected—in the first match itself.
Mavi Shines When Fortune Does Not
The circumstances were difficult: India had to defend a meek total of 163 in a batting-friendly Wankhede Stadium deck. The situation was far from ideal for any debutant, but not for Mavi, for when did fortune ever smile on him?
He bowled an in-form Pathum Nissanka in his first over, and then got the better of Dhananjaya de Silva in his second. On being re-introduced in the bowling attack, Mavi added a couple more scalps to his tally, handing departure slips to Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana in the process. Banking on his exemplary debut figures of 4-0-22-4, India clinched a narrow two-run win.
But beyond a solitary triumph in yet another bilateral affair, the spotlight was on the pacer, who, despite everything that was thrown his way, was stern and resolute enough not to call curtains on his dreams.
Childhood Coach Opens up on Mavi’s Formative Years
As Mavi picked one wicket after another, the mood was poignant at the household of Phoolchand Sharma, who has been coaching him since he was 11. Speaking to The Quint, he reminisced about when his adroit pupil’s future was shrouded in uncertainty while he was out with injuries.
“The best trait of Shivam is his focus,” Sharma informs us. “I have seen many youngsters who, once they suffer an injury, deviate from the path of cricket. This is where Shivam is different from the rest.”
“Even when he was injured, he would spend three to four hours at the academy on a daily basis, just watching the kids practice and discussing things about the game. The goal always was to not let cricket drift away from his life, as essentially, this has been his life,” he further explains.
Mavi was 11 years old when he first arrived at Sharma’s academy. "His father, Pankaj, brought the kid to me, saying, ‘Aaj se ye aapke hawale hai. Ab jo bhi hoga aapke upar hai (the kid is your responsibility from today. What you make of him is up to you)."
The first transformation Mavi had under Sharma’s guidance was the switch to being a pacer. "Initially, Shivam was a batter. He liked to bat. But I noticed that he was, by nature, a very shy child, and the shyness was somehow evident in his batting as well," the coach recollects.
“But once he got the ball, he became a different beast altogether. He was aggressive only when he used to bowl– take the ball from him and he would again return to his shell. His rhythm and pace were also impressive, so I pursued him to become a pacer," explains Sharma.
Will Gujarat Titans Catapult the Pacer to Greater Heights?
Not only does his national team future look bright with a debut four-fer, but Mavi also has found a new home in IPL, with Gujarat Titans spending Rs 6 crore for his services. Sharma firmly believes that this move will further catapult the player to greater heights.
"Ashish Nehra (Gujarat Titans’ head coach) has been following Shivam’s career since he was a kid—he is a friend of mine. Moreover, Hardik Pandya (the Gujarat Titans’ captain) also once frequented the academy, and hence he knows everything about him. So, the best aspect of this move will be the team atmosphere, as Shivam will be guided by people who know him very well," Sharma concludes.
For now, his coach, family, and friends can only hope that the debut four-fer was not another smokescreen but rather the trailer of what could be a spectacular international career.
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