Prithvi Shaw - From the oblivion of ban to first-choice ODI opener
Luck is a strange beast. Sometimes, when you are at the zenith, levitating with your feet way above the ground, it catches hold of you and plunges you deep, till you hit the rock bottom. At other times, the same rotten luck, picks you up with the utmost care, nestles you in its lap and places you back amid the stars.
Such has been the story of batting prodigy Prithvi Shaw. After he led the Indian U-19 team to a title win in 2018, Shaw was fast-tracked in the Indian setup on the basis of his consistent domestic performances and unanimously-recognised talent. Following a sensational Test debut, when he blasted a ton against West Indies, Shaw first injured himself Down Under and was then slapped with backdated suspension last year for a doping violation.
With Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan making the opening slot their own and KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and even Shubman Gill in contention, Shaw seemed to have hopelessly dropped in the pecking order.
"There were many ups and downs over the one year," Shaw said about his ban. "But I don't think much about the downs now. I don't want to bring in negative vibes in my career. Whatever opportunities I got after the Under-19 World Cup, I tried to make most of it and do my best for the team.
“I was desperate to play a game. I was excited about today’s game and what better than a victory. I’ll keep scoring runs; this is my job,” Shaw said after his comeback knock.
Many opined that his naiveness and carelessness had combined to push his international career back by at least three years. And it actually appeared so. India had an embarrassment of riches in the top order and even the likes of Devdutt Paddikal and Shubman Gill, who were scoring runs heavily in domestic cricket, at a time when Shaw was serving his ban, appeared far from making their ODI debut.
However, one thing that did not desert Shaw despite all the controversies was his form. He celebrated a memorable comeback with a fine-half century for Mumbai against Assam in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Soon after, Shaw scored a 174-ball 200 for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy, becaming the third-fastest double centurion in the history of the tournament.
All this while, be it the IPL or other domestic cricket, Shaw kept putting in performances. And, his natural skill always stood out.
"Prithvi Shaw, I've seen him develop as a player," Delhi Capitals coach and one of the sharpest brains in cricket, Ricky Ponting said about the youngster. "We took a punt on him as a young guy who hadn't played any T20 cricket. And from the moment I saw him, I knew he was ready to play. He showed that last year and has shown glimpses this season too," Ponting said after Shaw played some good hands for the franchise in the last edition.
Surviving a shoulder injury scare, Shaw, opening the batting for India A against New Zealand A, blasted a 100-ball 150 to send the message loud and clear that he was back and worthy of selection.
Fortune favours the brave, they say.
Shikhar Dhawan injured his shoulder a day before he was scheduled to take the flight to New Zealand. Rohit Sharma sustained a calf strain right at the end of the T20I series. And, India's man for all seasons, KL Rahul is being hardened for the middle-order role, as it's too much to ask from him to keep and open the batting in the 50-over format.
As if through a spell, Shaw has suddenly not only found a place in the Test squad but has become India's first-choice opener for the New Zealand ODIs overnight.
As Shaw walks out to open the batting in a new-look ODI opening pair with Mayank Agarwal, he will know that the slashes are going to fly over the slips this time and the umpire's call is bound to go in his favour. Luck, after all, has changed ends.
©Cricket World 2020