Prithvi Shaw: From Lonely Lanes to the Highway of Success
Before the pandemic, Shaw was hailed as a wonder boy, someone who was walking in the footsteps of Tendulkar.
Prithvi Shaw was going through the toughest phase of his career a couple of months back. His world had come crashing down on him when he was clean bowled for scores of 0 and 4 in the first Test of India's tour Down Under in Adelaide. India registered their lowest ever Test score of 36 in the same match and that's why Shaw's failures at the top of the order got criticized further.
The 21-year-old was benched for the next three matches of the series, while his U-19 World Cup teammate Shubman Gill replaced him and went on to deliver series defining performances. Shaw's morale and confidence was at the lowest point during that phase.
"It was the saddest day of my life (when he was dropped). I went to my room and broke down. I felt like something wrong was happening. I needed answers quickly," Shaw was quoted as saying in The Indian Express.
It would be wrong to say that he was dropped on the basis of just one bad match. Shaw had struggled with his form during IPL 2020 as well. The youngster had mustered just 228 runs during the season, at a meager average of 17.53. It was majorly a technical flaw — his inability to tackle the incoming delivery — that had led to his poor form of late.
As a result, he was dropped from India's squad for the home series against England that followed after the tour Down Under.
Before the pandemic struck last year, Shaw was hailed as the wonder boy of Indian cricket, someone who was walking in the footsteps of the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. He had broken one record after another in first-class cricket as a teenager, led the Indian U-19 team to the U19 World Cup title, went on to enjoy two stellar IPL seasons with Delhi Capitals and had scored a century on Test debut against West Indies as well.
The youngster was flying high after enjoying such success so early in his career but his recent failures in the IPL and the Test series in Australia saw him hitting rock bottom once again. Such a steep fall was very heartbreaking and mentally challenging for a youngster like him.
Professional and competitive sport isn't easy for anyone. With so many players waiting in the wings to grab their opportunity, all it takes sometimes is just one failure to bring an end to a player's career. Now Shaw had to ensure that wasn't going to happen with him.
He had already seen his share of struggles early in his life having lost his mother at a young age. It was a combination of the efforts of Shaw's father and his talent, hard work and determination, that had helped him in fulfilling his dream of playing for India. Having achieved his dream at such a young age, he may have gotten distracted in his path for a short while, but it was high time that he doubled his efforts to bounce back strongly, so that he could continue living his dream of playing for his country.
"I was in complete tension when I was dropped after the first Test. I got a feeling like I was worthless though I was happy that the team was doing well. I said to myself, 'I need to pull up my socks'. There is a saying, 'hard work beats talent'. I told myself all this talent is fine but it's of no use if I don't work hard," he had said in the same interview to The Indian Express.
Shaw completely walked the talk here as he worked hard, ironed out the chinks in his technique, and came up with a stellar batting performance in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. The 21-year-old smashed all records as he amassed 827 runs, the highest in the history of the tournament, at a mind-blowing average of 165.40. He scored four centuries and one fifty in the eight innings he batted and his runs came at an outstanding strike-rate of 138.29 as well. Not only that, he recorded the highest individual score of 227* as well, which came in the Group Stage match against Pondicherry.
These are staggering numbers considering how life had been treating him a couple of months back. He had become a prime suspect for lbw and bowled dismissals of late owing to his faulty technique. His bat used to come down from an angle pointing towards the gully region and that hindered him from meeting the incoming deliveries properly. Little or minimal footwork and a high back-lift only aggravated his problem further.
But there wasn't even a single occasion when Shaw was dismissed bowled during the Vijay Hazare Trophy. As far as lbw decisions go, he was out only once — in the semifinal against Karnataka and that too after playing a match-winning knock of 165. That shows how he has paid attention to his issues.
Along with Shaw, credit should be given to Delhi Capitals as well who lent him their batting coach Pravin Amre and strength and conditioning coach Rajnikanth Sivagnanam, so that the youngster could get back to his best. They worked on addressing Shaw's issues during a five-day training camp at the Shivaji Park in Mumbai after he returned from the tour of Australia and looking at how things have panned out for Shaw now, it can be said that the training session worked wonders for the youngster.
Not only did the 21-year-old break records as a batsman, but he shone as a leader during the course of the tournament as well. Mumbai went on to win the Vijay Hazare Trophy under his leadership and as admitted by Shaw himself, captaincy has had a positive influence on his batting. It has helped him in staying more focused at the crease.
“I (have been) doing captaincy from a very young age, so I have done U-14, U-16 and U-19. I have done India-A as well. I really enjoy captaining the side as I stay focused every ball, so I just love doing this and it affects my batting as well, so I am more focused,” Shaw said at the post-match presentation after guiding Mumbai to the title.
With this kind of performance, Shaw has turned around his fortune completely. His name will surely be on the selectors' mind while picking the squad for the upcoming ODI series against England. Even if he doesn't make it there this time, he should continue what he is doing now until the door to the national Team opens up for him once again.
(Prasenjit Dey is a freelance cricket writer. He can be reached at @CricPrasen. The opinions expressed are the author’s own and The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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