Prithvi Shaw stops time at SSN College grounds

In the city for the Vijay Hazare Trophy clash, the India U-19 World Cup winning skipper’s arrival at the venue forced students to change plans and focus on the match.

Prithvi Shaw during Mumbai's Vijay Hazare clash against Tamil Nadu at the SSN Grounds on Thursday.   -  K. Pichumani

The Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) is endless, so is Prithvi Shaw’s allegiance to his roots. Even a late-night flight from Mumbai on Wednesday, a two-hour drive from the hotel in TTK Road here to the SSN College Grounds in Kalavakkam, OMR – in between civilisation and ruins – didn’t snatch Prithvi’s chances of being in the XI against Tamil Nadu in the Vijay Hazare Trophy clash on Thursday.

Around 8:30 am, when the ID-card hung future engineers were gearing up for daily chores and assignments, news spread that the India U-19 World Cup-winning skipper was warming up near the boundary line. “Yes, he is in the XI,” confirmed an official from the Mumbai dugout and their plans went for a toss.

Video: Roaring welcome for the victorious U-19 World Cup team

Right from the greens to the main road, the only whisper in the air was, “Prithvi”. The locals love their ‘Ash’ (Ravichandran Ashwin) but today, the senior pro found a competitor when it comes to fandom. Even an auto rickshaw driver stationed his vehicle to catch a glimpse of the youngster from under the trees.

Prithvi had a short stay in the middle – scoring 9 off 9 – but the sense of royalty with an MRF bat reminded of Sachin Tendulkar in his teens. The legend used to invite similar worship following his debut tour of Pakistan in 1989/90.

But there, of course, is a gap between the U-19 level and the first-class grind. But the 18-year-old is an ‘instinct’ cricketer. Most Indian cricketers follow the mantra, barring Virat Kohli – possibly the last of the classical lot – who is a mix.

Cut to Prithvi’s innings, he displayed his solid defense the first ball he faced, left the second, took a single off the backfoot on the third, the fourth one beat him and then came, the ‘Kodak’ moment cover drive — yielding four runs. He hit another boundary before Anirudh caught him off Vignesh at square leg. The colt looked a bit uncomfortable against the short ball but that’s a part of the learning process.

Purists may debate that he hurried for runs – for more spotlight – but Prithvi is one character who would blush when praised. He is new to the media glare, scared of permissions and submissions, but definitely confident about his game.

“He has five first-class centuries and this game is nothing for him,” one of the students summed it up beautifully, while running through Prithvi’s records during the course of the match.