Among the country’s many upcoming talents, the name of Prithvi Shaw usually comes up right at the top. The Mumbai lad’s performances through junior cricket had many stalwarts sit up and take notice.
While many have set the stage on fire in the junior, not many go onto achieve big things once they enter the field of senior cricket.
Seventeen-year-old Shaw, though, has so far proved an exception to that theory. Playing in is debut Duleep Trophy game, he notched up a gritty 154 for India Red in the Duleep Trophy final against India Blue. Having already scored a century in his first-ever Ranji Trophy game, the feat saw him emulate India great Sachin Tendulkar who too had reached three figures while making his maiden appearance in the two domestic tournaments all before turning 18.
Shaw, like Tendulkar, had burst into the scene after setting a record in the prestigious Harris Shield school cricket tournament in Mumbai. The then 14-year-old Shaw had scored a remarkable 546 off 330 balls while playing for Rizvi Springfield School.
On Monday, he produced another gritty performance on a wicket that favoured spinners. His knock took India Red to 317/5 by stumps on Day 1.
For Shaw’s school coach Raju Pathak, the knock took him back to the days when the young lad would punish bowlers on Mumbai’s famous maidans.
“The pitch in Lucknow was quite similar to most wickets that are on offer at Mumbai Azad Maidan and Cross Maidan,” observed Pathak, who still guides Shaw as coach of Rizvi College where the youngster studies.
“He was in his natural environment you can say,” Pathak said. “Prithvi has god-given talent. Since the record knock in his school days, we all knew there was something special in the boy.
“However, all that was missing was maturity in his shot selection. In the past few years, I feel he has begun mastering the art. After watching the Duleep Trophy knock I am convinced he is now ready to take the next step as senior cricketer,” Pathak added.
Pathak’s views were mooted by Vinod Raghavan, Shaw’s coach during his Under-16 and Under-19 days with Mumbai.
“In the last one year, a lot has changed in Prithvi’s outlook towards the game. From focus on fitness to shot-selection, he has definitely matured as a cricketer,” Raghavan said.
“Initially, as a youngster when he first came into the Mumbai fold, there was an issue with his temperament. He had a habit of throwing his wicket. But, to his credit he learned from his mistakes quickly. He is a fast learner. That he is notching up records at such an early age at the senior level is testament to hard-work,” he added.
Shaw was in his element on Monday. Given a debut in the final, he took up the challenge head on rather than being cowed down by the occasion. He looked at ease despite the opposition bowling unit being headed by India pacer Ishant Sharma.
For Pathak, it was all too familiar. “He has always been a confident boy. At 14, he never feared the big occasions. One glance at him and we knew he was comfortable despite the situation. Now, three years later, nothing much has changed,” he said.
Climbing up the ladder
Since his Harris Shield heroics, Shaw has quickly gone up the ladder. Recently, he got an opportunity to play for the India under-19 side. According to Pathak, the opportunity to play under stalwarts like Rahul Dravid at such a young age has definitely made an impact.
“There is a huge difference between playing school cricket and then going onto representing your state and country. For someone of the potential of Prithvi, a chance to interact with senior cricketers early seems to have helped him mature as a play that much quickly,” says Pathak.
This transition though has not come easily. Shaw has worked hard on his fitness and has made a concerted effort to curtail his urge to hit out every ball, feels Raghavan.
“A year or so back, all he would care for was batting. Focus was never on fitness and his fielding naturally took a hit. Since then though, he has turned it around well. He has learned quickly and taken steps to improve his training methods,” Raghavan said.
“There is still a long way to go. But, with the right attitude Prithvi can go all the way to the top. He has shown us what he’s got, hopefully he can keep doing it for years to come,” he added.