IPL, ICC U-19 WC — a new high for Prithvi Shaw

It is still early days for the U-19 team captain, says his father; former India cricketer Nilesh Kulkarni, who had a part to play in his first England tour, credits the batsman for his focus.

Prithvi Shaw has hit two half-centuries in four innings in the ongoing U-19 World Cup.   -  Getty Images

Pankaj Shaw is a cricket fanatic. Back in the day, he would often play with his friends near Juhu beach in Mumbai. When his toddler, Prithvi, started participating in those matches, it doubled his hysteria.

But on Tuesday, when India U-19 — under Prithvi’s leadership — beat arch-rival Pakistan U-19 by 203 runs to reach the final of the World Cup, the senior Shaw ignored the television. “I don’t watch his matches any more. That’s why I didn’t go to New Zealand. I go for local and club matches only. I get tense. Earlier, I would not even switch on the television unless he was, at least, batting on 60,” he told Sportstar.

The India U-19 opener has already registered two half-centuries in the tournament, along with a 40 and a 41 against Bangladesh and Pakistan respectively. “I spoke to him after the match. He said everything is all right and they will play the final the way they have been playing the other matches,” he added.

Read: Gill leads India into U-19 World Cup final

The cricket world could relate Prithvi’s progress to that of a young Sachin Tendulkar in the eighties, but Pankaj is unmoved. “It feels good that the team is in the final (against Australia on Saturday). I hope they win it too, but Prithvi needs to do even better. He needs to keep working harder. Abhi toh bohot chhota hai, abhi toh kuch khela hi nahi hai (he is still young and hasn’t played his best cricket yet). Everyone has a different game, and you can’t compare, especially with the legendary Tendulkar,” he reasoned.

After his wife’s demise, Pankaj gave up the garment business to focus on his son’s cricket career. The duo also received support from many quarters. Sanjay Potnis, a Shiv Sena MLA, handed them a flat in Santacruz — a few minutes from BKC and MIG Cricket Club, where Prithvi would train. “All this wouldn’t have been possible without Mumbai Cricket Association’s (MCA) facilities at the BKC. Even in the rains, their indoor nets come handy,” said Pankaj.

‘Huge boost’

His domestic outbursts — five first-class hundreds and three half-centuries — in the past 12 months added brownies to this report card, which raised his stakes at the recent Indian Premier League (IPL) auctions. The 18-year-old earned a contract with Delhi Daredevils for ₹1.2 crore. “The domestic season made him confident. He faced bowlers like Ishant Sharma and Jaydev Unadkat. It fine-tuned his approach towards international cricket. In the IPL, he will have a chance to improve his fielding too, with so many international players and coaches available to guide him. In Delhi Daredevils, he will get to practice with the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Mohammed Shami at the nets, which is a huge boost,” Pankaj added.

Read: BCCI to announce cash award for cricketers

Former India cricketer Nilesh Kulkarni, who was instrumental in sending Prithvi to his first international tour (in England in 2012) as part of an exchange programme, is not surprised at his ascension. “When we were youngsters, a few seniors supported us. As a fellow cricketer, I wanted to support him. But it is his talent and commitment which got him to this stage. Nobody should take credit for this. It is only the player,” said Kulkarni, on whose recommendation Prithvi played for Chidel Hume School in Manchester, scoring 1,446 runs.

“He was very young when he went there. It was difficult for him to hold a conversation in English and he was a little concerned. When he came back after the month-long stint, he handled the entire press on his own. He said he could answer all questions.

“Prithvi stayed with an English family and played for all age-groups. Later, he went on to play a few club matches too,” Kulkarni recalled.

The year 2017 has been a blessing for Shaw— he signed a sponsorship deal with MRF and bagged a job with the Indian Oil. Now it remains to be seen if the New Year sets new standards.

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