“India have found what they long believed to be true – A superstar”!
A stroke-filled century from the 18-year-old debutant Prithvi Shaw lit up Day One of the first Test between India and West Indies at Rajkot on Thursday. The Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) in Rajkot holds a special place in Shaw’s heart as it is the same venue where he made his First-Class debut for Mumbai in January 2017 and just like today, scored a century to help his side to a memorable win. 22 months later after toiling hard in the domestic circuit, Shaw realised his dream of playing for his country at the highest level. He became the third fastest centurion on Test debut and not since Shikhar Dhawan’s 85-ball ton on debut against Australia in 2013, have we seen such a fearless innings in Test cricket.
There was never any question of Shaw’s talents right from his school days. The hardships he faced to play cricket too are well documented. Shaw came into the limelight when he slammed 546 off just 330 deliveries in Harris Shield tournament in school in 2013. Of course, there is no guarantee that one would make it big by scoring big in a school tournament, but Shaw put in the hard yards and today he is playing alongside some big guns like Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane in the Indian cricket team. Given his good show in the limited-overs, we could soon see him in India’s blue jersey and could very well be in the shortlist for a World Cup spot. But that’s getting too far ahead of ourselves, something that even the young Shaw would not do.
After scoring the record-breaking 546, Shaw, 14, was likened to the great Sachin Tendulkar as he too hailed from Mumbai and he too scored tons of runs at the school level. To that, Shaw said, “It’s too far ahead. For now, I am happy playing at this level and scoring the runs. Tendulkar is my idol in cricket and one thing I try to pick up from him is how he carries himself in a humble manner.”
He continued his good run and a call-up to the Mumbai Ranji side was just a matter of time. Over the next year and a half or so, he went on to play 8 matches for Mumbai and slammed 776 runs at 51.73, which included 4 centuries and was also a key figure for India A, for whom he has played 4 matches, scoring 406 runs at 58, scoring two centuries and a fifty in 7 innings. With India unable to find a solid opening pair in the Test series against England, Shaw slammed a magnificent 188 off just 169 in unofficial Test against West Indies in England and was then called up for the final two Tests against England.
Also, Shaw kick-started 2018, leading India to an Under-19 World Cup title in New Zealand. India dominated the tournament right from the first match and Shaw’s leadership skills too were well tested. With Rahul Dravid as the head coach, Shaw and many of his teammates rose to the occasion and etched their names in history. We have seen many under-19 stars make it big for their national team and Shaw became the first from the team to make it to the senior team. Shaw had a good outing with the bat as well, scoring 261 runs from 5 innings at 65.25. But it was the first time we saw Shaw as a captain and he did not disappoint, just like he didn’t every time he has taken the field as a batsman in his young career so far.
Dravid during his time at the Indian T20 league and as head coach of the Indian youth and India A teams has worked closely with some of the young talents. Rishabh Pant is one of them and he made his Test debut in England. Dravid has also worked closely with Shaw, who he rates very highly. Dravid has often said that it is Shaw’s continuous improvement in all the levels he has played is what impresses him the most.
While he is talented, Dravid also feels that he is not a finished product. “He (Shaw) is a talented player but he’s got a long way to go. He has got a lot to learn. None of them are finished products, all are learning along the way. He will get opportunities, he (is) going to have some ups and downs,” Dravid said.
As he showed in his debut innings against West Indies, Shaw loves to punch the ball off the back foot and has a terrific hand-eye coordination. He is elegant when it comes to playing drives, is a good puller and also can sweep incredibly well, which is a huge asset especially in India. The youngster also has no problems when it comes to adapting to different formats, which is why he has done well in the 50-over and the T20 formats.
For a while now, there have been calls for Mayank Agarwal’s inclusion in the Indian team. Agarwal, had a splendid Ranji Trophy season. Agarwal, another opener, known for his confident strokeplay and fearless cricket – Just like Shaw – scored 1,160 runs in 13 innings at 105.45 in for Karnataka in the tournament and from there he has scored a double century against South Africa and played a handy knock in one of the unofficial Tests in England as well. The 27-year-old will feel a bit unlucky not to be a part of the XI at Rajkot, but such is Shaw’s aura, that the Indian team management felt that it was important to hit the iron when it was hot and drafted him into the team straight away, ahead of Agarwal. Shaw is no stranger to scoring centuries on debuts. He did that on his Ranji Trophy debut, Duleep Trophy debut and also scored a fifty in his Irani Cup debut. While many succumb under pressure, Shaw rose above the rest and gave everyone the feeling that he has been playing at this level for ages. He did not take any half measures but played every shot with the utmost confidence.
Shaw’s century has made the returns of Shikhar Dhawan or Murali Vijay a tad difficult. But India have found what they long believed to be true – A superstar!
Shaw has arrived at the international stage. There was never any doubt that he would make it this far. But now that he is here, does it have what it takes to hang on and cement his place in the side. We will have to wait and watch.