Prithvi Shaw going great guns
Prithvi Shaw is one among the new breed of batsmen who go on a leather hunt from the word go. It’s a good rule of thumb for the delightful opening batsman, raised on the turf pitches of Mumbai, to keep himself busy and the scoreboard rattling without wasting time once the fast bowler starts his business, taking the new ball.
At the Narendra Modi Stadium in the rustic outskirts of Ahmedabad city, the Delhi Capitals opening batsman, Shaw swung into action straightaway against Shivam Mavi, hitting the Kolkata Knight Riders medium-pacer for six delectable fours. Mavi began with a wide. And he saw the next six deliveries dispatched to the fence with an alacrity, which in a matter of less than a minute, whittled down the modest target of 154 by 24 runs, which on occasions opening pairs have found it difficult to make in the first six-over power play. Shaw powered shots to all parts of the field, scored his third half century of the ongoing league, and won the man of the match award.
Shaw’s undertakings with the bat can be like a curate’s egg. Seven months ago, in the off shore IPL played in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, he flattered to deceive scoring a mere 228 runs in 13 matches for a paltry average of 17.54. He had begun the IPL-13 season with scores of 64, 66 and 42, before getting dismissed for a series of single digit scores. He was sorted out by the seamers 11 times.
In the previous two seasons, he had been a far cry from the kind of reputation he had gained as someone who can be depended on to consistently give a rollicking start. He made 245 and 353 in 25 matches together in 2018 and 2019, respectively. But those who have suffered his onslaught knew that Shaw was one of country's brightest talents who cannot be trifled with.
His century on Test debut against the West Indies in Rajkot a few years ago only confirmed an opinion among the discerning that he had a career ahead in international cricket. Leading India to title triumph in the ICC under-19 World Cup in New Zealand impressed experts like Ian Bishop and Tom Moody who were on the Star Sports commentary panel.
Shaw slipped somewhere down the line. He even served a ban for consuming a banned substance. A leg injury kept him out of the series in Australia in 2018-19. But what turned out be a concern for the game’s analysts and coaches was the technical inadequacy that he was not able to address against genuine fast bowlers. He was dropped after the first Test at the Adelaide Oval, where India was shot out for 36.
Clearly Shaw has shown the resolve, spending time with India’s head coach Ravi Shastri and batting coach Vikram Rathour in Australia and with Praveen Amre in Mumbai, to work on a few glitches in his technique. He was not in full flow in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Twenty20 tournament, but won the Vijay Hazare Trophy Trophy single-handedly for Mumbai with a strong performance right through the limited-overs tournament. He amassed 827 runs with four centuries in the tournament.
Delhi Capitals had reason to believe that Shaw would deliver the goods in the IPL-14 played in tough pandemic times. He did not figure in the white ball series against England, which was an indication that the selectors and the India team management were keen to see how would shape in the IPL.
One of Australia’s legends and head coach of the Capitals, Ricky Ponting revealed the effort he made to get the best out of Shaw in the Emirates last year. Ponting said Shaw was one of the gifted batsmen he has seen.
"I have really enjoyed working with him. I have had some really interesting chats with him through last year's IPL, just trying to break him down, trying to find out exactly what was the right way to coach him and how I was going to get the best out of him. But he had an interesting theory on his batting last year and that’s when he's not scoring runs, he won't bat in the nets and when he is scoring runs, he wants to keep batting all the time,” Ponting told the Cricket Australia website.
Shaw has been in his elements this season and he has already scored 269 runs in seven matches at a run rate of 9.90. He has proved to be a formidable partner with Shikhar Dhawan. He made 72 off 38 deliveries against Chennai, 53 off 39 against Hyderabad and 82 off 41 against Kolkata. Commentator Michael Slater described Shaw as a great entertainer.
Delhi's progress to the business end of the tournament – the play-offs – will largely depend on the number of runs he contributes to the side. He is not the one to eschew the frills, encouraged as he is by his captain Rishabh Pant to play the natural game.
Shaw, on his part, will be keen to return to the national team across all formats. The second half of the league phase will get more competitive as the teams try to advance to the last four and specifically target the top two positions. Delhi and Pant would expect Shaw to continue in the same vein.
With Shreyas Iyer ruled out because of a shoulder injury, Shaw and Dhawan have taken the responsibility of giving a sound start and turned out to be a bugbear for the rival bowlers in the power play and thereafter. On Thursday (April 29), he hit thundering shots and made Mavi scratch his head.
Why the KKR captain Eoin Morgan did not start the defence of a small total with Pat Cummins remains a mystery. Mavi erred in line and length and Shaw took heavy toll of him. Shaw looks more determined this time around and this augurs well for the Capitals.