Some days after the Indian team returned home after the historic Test series win in Australia, a few people gathered inside a room at the Mumbai Cricket Association’s Bandra-Kurla Complex facility. Among them was India and Mumbai opener Prithvi Shaw, former India and Mumbai middle-order batsman Pravin Amre and strength conditioning coach Rajinikanth Sivagnanam.
Amre, who has returned to the Delhi Capitals set-up (this time as an assistant coach), did some plain speaking.
Shaw had played just the one Test in Australia — the first Test at Adelaide — facing just six balls combined in two innings and scoring 0 and 4 respectively. In both the innings, he was bowled through the gate. Before that, he had a disappointing Indian Premier League campaign in 2020 where he just managed 228 runs in 13 games and was dropped during the season. The Test debut against West Indies and the promise he brought with it, looked a distant memory.
Amre decided to show Shaw the mirror. The former Mumbai Ranji Trophy coach has been around long enough to know that talent is nothing minus discipline and dedication. He had seen the career graphs of Vinod Kambli and Sachin Tendulkar. As Shaw sat in front of him, Amre knew that the youngster needed help, both technically and otherwise.
“Shaw was emotionally lost and also needed help with his game. The first thing that this meeting did was give him surety that the Delhi Capitals management had faith in him and wanted him to succeed,” Amre told Scroll.in.
“However, I made it clear that on current form and shape it will be difficult for him to be successful at any level of cricket. Once I got a commitment from him that he was ready to listen to me and adjust according to my suggestions, we got down to work. I told him that Vijay Hazare Trophy [India’s domestic 50-over competition] was his last chance to get his place back in the DC playing XI and also keep his stock high considering there will be a mega auction ahead of next season’s IPL.”
That work has meant that Shaw now has 754 runs in the Vijay Hazare Trophy including the 165 that he got against Karnataka in the semi-final on Thursday. His scores this far in the season read 105*, 34, 227*, 36, 2, 185* and 165. As captain in Shreyas Iyer’s absence, Shaw has led from the front. Shaw’s tally for the season is already the record for most runs in one edition of Vijay Hazare Trophy, eclipsing Mayank Agarwal’s mark of 723 in 2017-’18.
Top run-getters in the tournament so far
Prithvi Shaw's scores in VJH Trophy 2021
|165||v Karnataka||Delhi||11 Mar 2021|
|185*||v Saurashtra||Delhi||9 Mar 2021|
|2||v H. Pradesh||Jaipur||1 Mar 2021|
|36||v Rajasthan||Jaipur||27 Feb 2021|
|227*||v Puducherry||Jaipur||25 Feb 2021|
|34||v Maharashtra||Jaipur||23 Feb 2021|
|105*||v Delhi||Jaipur||21 Feb 2021|
But what was this work that Amre and Rajnikanth put through in the five days that they had with Shaw?
“We started with video analysis. I showed him what was wrong with his bat swing and the positioning of his feet. I made him realise how the position of his bat face was resulting in lots of clean bowled and caught-behind dismissals. I thought that his footwork was not decisive and he was not coming in good positions to face the ball,” Amre said.
“Even during the IPL season, he was getting dismissed too often in first five overs. I told him that whatever plan he has, is not working and we will have to change a few things. As a coach, I had to give him options as to what can work for him. I also told him that we will focus entirely on white-ball as his next few assignments were Vijay Hazare and the IPL. Nobody is going to consider him for red-ball now.”
“As things stood, he was close to being tagged a failure. Talent yes, but consistency no. I made him realise that all the talk about his talent is a thing of the past. What he needed to stay relevant now are performances. I told him that the upcoming IPL is the most important tournament in his career and the franchise at some point will lose its patience with him. I told him that in Vijay Hazare Tournament he was going to get 300 balls [50 overs in an innings] and he has to make sure that he plays at least 100 balls in each innings.”
The conversation wasn’t one way. Shaw and Amre had worked together earlier too at Air India and Shaw opened up about what he wanted from this short clinic.
“He wanted his pull shot back. This has been one of his most productive shots in the past, but now he was struggling on the short ball. So he wanted to work to get that back. Through the video analysis, we realised that his foot movement was slow and tried to rectify that during skill-based sessions,” Amre said.
Once the problem was diagnosed, the rectification started and the first aspect that was worked upon was fitness.
“To be in a good position to face the ball, first thing is fitness and so when we started the work at Bengal Gymkhana, Shivaji Park, morning sessions were dedicated to fitness. Rajnikanth gave Shaw a set of drills that he had to follow for almost 2 hours. For skill enhancement, we needed physical fitness. This fitness is helping him play big innings now. All his hundreds have been big hundreds. The same boy who was struggling to play six overs during last IPL is now playing for 35-40 overs,” Amre added.
In the afternoon sessions came the skill training. As Amre put it, it wasn’t rocket science.
“I just worked on him presenting the full face of the bat to the ball and getting his shape in terms of body position while playing the ball better. To get that bat face right, we worked on his hand position. So I gave a lot of drills to improve that aspect. It had reached a stage that as soon as he would walk in to bat, people would say that he would get bowled. We worked on that aspect during our sessions. As it happens with out of form players, he was all the time thinking about runs. I told him to think about spending more time on the wicket.”
Amre has been the go-to batting coach for the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, and Robin Uthappa in the past. These players have come to Amre when needing guidance and the experienced Mumbaikar has been able to provide a remedy with hard work and simple philosophy. And this is now turning true in Shaw’s case too.
“In the five days, I tried to keep it simple. I know that when one is not getting runs, there already is lots of confusion in the mind. So I along with Rajnikanth gave him simple drills to follow each day. There were minor technical tweaks that made a tangible difference in terms of the results that he was getting during the net sessions. It was like putting together a jig-saw puzzle where you have all the material but have to find the right fit for the right place. Once you find that the whole picture becomes clear,” Amre added.
Amre knows well about failures and successes over his long association with the sport in India. He was one of those domestic giants who didn’t get enough chances to prove his international credentials. In Shaw’s performances, Amre has twin interests: first, that he doesn’t want another talent to go waste and second, to reinforce his credentials as a coach with superb credentials.
Based on Shaw’s return to form, both aspects are being taken care of.