With the T20 World Cup not far away, Prithvi Shaw is one of the key players to watch out for in Indian Premier League 2021 and the 21-year-old made a solid start to the season on Saturday, guiding Delhi Capitals to a seven-wicket win over Chennai Super Kings.
The signs were there coming into this match. After a disappointing tour of Australia, Shaw roared back to form with a record-breaking Vijay Hazare Trophy. And at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday, the right-hander showed he is hungry to keep going and remain in the zone.
Set a challenging target of 189, Delhi Capitals killed the contest with a 138-run opening stand between Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Co struggled to threaten the right-left combination as Rishabh Pant began his captaincy stint with an impressive win.
While Dhawan played some delightful strokes in his 54-ball 85, Shaw was the more aggressive of the two as he raced to 72 off 38 with nine fours and three sixes.
There were three things that went in favour of Shaw on Saturday: his improved technique and shot selection, the conditions at the Wankhede Stadium, and the assistance provided by CSK.
First let’s look at the positives in Shaw’s batting. As Delhi Capitals assistant coach Pravin Amre had pointed out in an interview with Scroll.in recently, the youngster worked hard on his technique after being dropped from the Indian team in Australia, in an evident attempt to bring his bat down a lot straighter.
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar highlighted in commentary that Shaw’s right elbow was coming down from close to his body while playing shots, almost rubbing against his ribs, and that is helping him close the gap between his bat and pad. That translated into some terrific punches off the front and back foot and along with a back-and-across trigger movement, he looked a lot more stable at the crease than he did before.
As impressive as his strokeplay was though, he did benefit greatly from the conditions at the Wankhede. The ground is small with a super fast outfield but most importantly for Shaw, the pitch is often a batting paradise. There was no turn or lateral movement for the bowlers all night and Shaw could simply hit through the line.
And this brings us to the final point: Chennai’s failure to put up a challenge in the field. Apart from dropping two regulation catches provided by Shaw, when he was on 38 and 47 respectively, CSK simply didn’t have the bowlers to exploit the pitch in any way.
The surface at the Wankhede rarely assists spinners in white-ball cricket and it is the quicker bowlers, the ones with real pace, who tend to find some form of success. And in Deepak Chahar, Sam Curran and Shardul Thakur, CSK have three front-line bowlers who aren’t really fast enough to trouble batsmen with air speed or bouncer and carry.
With none of these bowlers getting much swing either, the ball came on perfectly for Shaw. It was only when Dwayne Bravo (1/28 from four overs) came into the attack in the 12th over that the DC batsmen were tested by variations in speed, line and length. But Shaw and Dhawan had done the bulk of the damage by then.
At the end of the day though, Shaw and a depleted Delhi Capitals can be content with the outcome in their opening match of the season. Shaw, especially, can be pleased with the shots he hit but more so with the amount of time he spent at the crease. He kept his head down, albeit a couple of hiccups, and looked keen to contribute a big knock like he did consistently in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
“The wicket was quite good to bat on in the second innings and we executed our shots quite well,” Shaw said after the game. “I’ve been working on my technique since the Australia tour... I don’t want to think about it (being dropped from the Indian side) because it was a disappointing moment for me, but I have to move on and if something is wrong with my technique or batting then I have to improve. So there are no excuses and I am just working hard on myself.”
Delhi Capitals play their next two matches against Rajasthan Royals and Punjab Kings respectively at the Wankhede. It won’t be a surprise if Shaw continues to be among the runs. The gauntlet had been thrown to him by head coach Ricky Ponting ahead of the tournament and the Aussie legend was evidently pleased at the end when he patted the youngster on his head after the win. From here on, it will be a matter of consistency for the Mumbaikar.
Watch highlights of Prithvi Shaw’s innings against CSK here.
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