Early Struggles to India Debut: Tracing Prithvi Shaw’s Career
Is this young Mumbaikar also destined for Sachin-like greatness?
On 8 November 1999, Sachin Tendulkar gave this nation goosebumps as he smashed his way to 186 against New Zealand at Hyderabad, a tally that would go on to become the highest ODI score by an Indian for the next decade. Little did anyone know that a child born on the very next day in Thane, a city not far from Mumbai, would begin to walk on the footsteps of the master blaster just a couple of decades later.
That child today is 18-year-old Prithvi Shaw and he’s now set to make his India debut after being included in the final 12 for the first Test against West Indies, starting 4 October.
A Struggle Since Childhood
It was Shaw’s father, Pankaj, who spotted a spark in Prithvi as a cricket player when he was merely three years old. He didn’t waste time and enrolled his son in the nearby Cricket Academy. However, life wasn't too kind to Prithvi as he lost his mother at the age of four. His father was forced to sell his shop in order to help his son work towards his cricket career.
Every day, with the help of his father, Prithvi would wake up at 4:30 am, pack his school bag and cricket kit and set out for the MIG ground in Bandra for training by the 6 am train. The journey from his home in Virar, a small suburb in Mumbai, to the cricket ground lasted 90 minutes every day. But, the dreams in their eyes made that long time pass by easily.
2010, The Year That Changed Everything
Prithvi’s life took a huge turn in 2010 when Nilesh Kulkarni, a former Mumbai left arm spinner, spotted the talent in the 11-year-old kid. His sports management company signed him up for an annual stipend of Rs 3 lakh which also put an end to their hardships.
Their problems further eased off when a corporate offered Prithvi and his father a flat in Santa Cruz. The new home reduced Prithvi’s travel time to the ground and thus helped him bring a balance to cricket and studies.
The talent of the 11-year old was so profound that it didn’t take long to transcend boundaries. His extra-ordinary talent caught the eye of former county cricketer Julian Wood after Prithvi played a fine knock of 73 runs against his academy’s team. So impressed was Wood that he offered him a stint at his academy in England.
Shaw then spent three months in Manchester in 2012, getting a measure of the English conditions at an early age.
When he scored a century in his debut match for Cheadle Hulme School in Cheshire, one hardly had any doubts left about his talent, if any. 1,446 runs followed in that season at an average of 85 and 68 wickets to his name was just an added bonus.
That fine season was followed by an invitation to train with Gloucestershire. Although he didn’t get to play in the second XI on account of being an overseas player, Shaw did play in the friendlies and notched up some impressive performances too.
Innings That Shot Him to Fame
Prithvi returned home after his stint in England and his learnings there didn't take long to translate to big performances at home. A mammoth knock of 546 runs off 330 balls laced with 85 fours and five sixes followed, playing for his school Rizvi Springfield in the Harris Shield tournament — the one that made Tendulkar famous in 1998 after his record breaking partnership with Vinod Kambli.
Prithvi’s 546 remained the highest score in the history of the tournament until Pranav Dhanawade in 2016 broke it with his innings of 1,009 runs in 2016.
From U-19 to First Class
Five years have passed and Prithvi is making everyone sit up and take notice with his record-breaking feats at the senior level.
Last year, the selectors identified the talent in a 17-year-old Shaw and excluded him from the U-19 squad for the Asia Cup to let him concentrate on a full-fledged first-class season. And he didn’t disappoint.
Shaw scored a century in his Ranji Trophy debut and then became the youngest to score a century on his Duleep Trophy debut, a record held earlier by the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. That wasn't all though, Shaw went on to score 4 centuries in his first 5 first-class matches.
Just one season of domestic cricket and Shaw has already accumulated 1,418 runs in 14 first-class matches at an average of 56.72. He is now only behind the Tendulkar when it comes to scoring the most number of first-class hundreds before the age of 18.
World Cup-Winning Captain
An 18-year-old Shaw under the guidance of the great Rahul Dravid led India to a Under-19 World Cup win earlier this year. The young captain led by example, scoring a total of scoring 261 runs in six matches at 65.25.
His maturity at the international stage saw Shaw being bagged by Delhi Daredevils for a whopping Rs 1.2 Crore – six times his base price of Rs 20 lakh. And with Gautam Gambhir stepping down as captain, the young cricketer got the perfect opportunity to express himself in the opener’s slot. In his maiden IPL season, Shaw scored 245 runs in 9 matches, at an average of 27.22 and strike-rate of 153.12.
England Tour With India A
The selectors still had an eye on the Mumbai boy and he was selected for India A’s tour to England, where the runs didn’t stop either. He scored a century against West India A in the 50-over match tri-series and followed it up with a 188 against West India A in the four-day match – his highest score in first-class cricket.
And the latest addition in his list of impressive performances was a 136 against South Africa A in Bengaluru on 5 August.
Shaw earned his maiden India call-up for the final two Tests against England in August-September, but wasn’t picked in the playing eleven for either matches. However, the 18-year-old made a stronger appeal to the selectors with a century and two half-centuries for Mumbai in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Now set to walk out in his India whites for the first time, the young cricketer seems to be making all the right moves and noises with his spectacular performances with the bat.
(Prasenjit Dey is a freelance cricket writer. He can be reached at @Prosen02. The opinions expressed are the author’s own and The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)
(This article has been republished from The Quint’s archives to mark the occasion of Prithvi Shaw’s century on Test debut.)
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