The talent who is all set to stage rule the roost…….
With dreamy eyes and great plans for the future but with limited determination to succeed at the highest level, everyday youngsters arrive and exit in Indian cricket. Some have the potential but lack the temperament to go further while a majority of aspirants realize how tough it can get out there. While some just play on to harbour the dreams of heir father who wrap up their small fabric business to focus solely on their son’s cricketing growth after the unfortunate demise of their wives.
And this is how Prithvi Pankaj Shaw came about to think that cricket could be his calling. After gaining admission in Rizvi Springfield through a sports quota, it was only expected that he would be spending most of his time perfecting his technique on the cricket ground. He led the way for his team as the captain of his school in the reputed Harris Shield tournament, smashing scores of 155 and 174 in the semis and finals respectively, thus guiding his team to the title in 2012.
The same ability to perform and remain calm under pressure, especially whilst leading a team was evident in the Under-19 World Cup earlier this year, as he ended the tournament with the most numbers of runs by any Indian skipper ever in the Under-19 level. His 261 runs from 6 matches with an average of 65.25 beat Unmukt Chand’s 246 runs, which was a great feat but not surprising. Ever since he was spotted as a player of intense potential by Cricket Beyond Boundaries, an exchange programme that sends upcoming stars in sports to train abroad, Shaw had been touted as a star to watch out for.
In Cheadle Hulme School in Chesire in 2012, Shaw impressed with an all-round performance where he scalped 68 wickets besides scoring 1446 runs, including a ton on debut. After learning the art of tackling the extra bounce and wing, the Mumbaikar returned to India and broke all records when he made 546 in 330 balls – the third highest registered score by any batsman in any level since the twentieth century. Julian Wood, a former English cricketer who runs the Julian Wood Cricket Academy and who had allowed Shaw a stint in his academy after an impressive showing for Cheadle Hume remains effuse in his praise for the Indian.
“He is technically perfect. Despite not being a tall player, he punches the ball really well. He could cut and pull really well and his knowledge of the game at just eight years of age really amazed me.”
Fast forward to 2017. After Indian had won the Under-19 Asia Cup under Shaw’s captaincy, the Mumbai selection panel were on a sticky wicket. On one hand, the clamour to include the young player was rising and on the other, the selectors were eager to field the same side that had won the quarters in the Ranji Trophy semi-finals against Tamil Nadu. After serious discussions with Under-19 coach Rahul Dravid, the chairman of selectors Milind Rege picked Shaw in the team – a move that could have gone either way. The cricketer was yet to play a First-Class game, and pushing him into the deep end in his very first match was a huge gamble.
Though Shaw was unable to get going in the first innings, the tentative start was overcome with utter calmness as he played and ripped apart the opposition bowlers. His century on debut, a 175-ball 120 was replete with an equilibrium of aggression and defence and showed how the player was here to stay. The Under-19 World Cup further enhanced those views but it was the Indian Premier League where doubts of his one-dimensional style of play evaporated into thin air.
Though he was not touted to play in a team of legends, after the early dip in form of the Delhi Daredevils openers Clin Munro, Gautam Gambhir and Jason Roy, Shaw was given a chance, though it was unlikely that he would set the stage on fire. 9 games, 245 runs and a strike-rate of 153.12 later, he had stamped his identity as a future superstar who could play and win games in any format, in any situation.
His exploits in the unofficial Tests has rightfully earned him a spot in the Indian team for the last two Tests. Scores of 188 against West Indies, 62 against England in England and 136 against South Africa A in the last two months led to his early call-up and though it is unlikely that Shaw would be given a chance to play, with his steady mix of passion, ability and calmness the India Cap seems a mere formality.