Prithvi Shaw continues to make heads turn

The diminutive right-hander, recognised as a ‘special talent’ by many, continues to justify his label in the Indian Premier League.

Prithvi Shaw looked imperious in his half-century against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Saturday.   -  K. V. S. Giri

It is not everyday one gets to be compared with cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar. But when it happens, there may be something special to warrant the comparison. Eloquent drives, audacious punches and fluent strokes that were once used to describe the batting great now belong to the young Prithvi Shaw.

The diminutive right-hander shot to fame as a 14-year-old when he hammered 546 for Rizvi Springfield School in the famous Harris Shield Tournament in 2013. A century on Ranji Trophy debut for Mumbai against Tamil Nadu and the youngest player to score a ton on Duleep Trophy debut sent Shaw’s stakes soaring.

Shaw then passed the ultimate junior test when he guided India to the U-19 World Cup title last year. And an Indian Premier League contract was just a matter of time.

Snapped up for ₹1.2 crore by Delhi Daredevils, Shaw seemed to have adopted his team's second name. Executing fearless strokes, he has drawn comparisons with Tendulkar. Former Australian batsman and now selector Mark Waugh and Ian Bishop couldn't stop raving about Shaw's technique. While Bishop, in an interview with the league broadcaster, said Shaw's front foot is akin to Tendulkar's, Waugh said his punchy strokeplay and the ability to play the ball late, like Tendulkar, sets him apart.

Unstoppable

On Saturday at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Shaw was almost unstoppable. If the bowlers pitch in the zone, Shaw would make a mincemeat of it. When Sandeep Sharma pitched slightly ahead of the good length zone, Shaw reacted smartly; his lofted drive, on the rise over mid-off, was a treat to watch. An inside-out lofted drive over covers off Bhuvneshwar Kumar prompted one to stand and watch the 18-year-old in awe.

What had set him apart was his judgement. It was evident when he thumped Siddharth Kaul for 18 runs in an over. He picked a slower ball early and launched a six over long-off, and a couple of short-of-the-length deliveries were treated with disdain.

Delhi Daredevils' assistant coach Pravin Amre, who has been moulding Shaw for years in Mumbai, wasn't dumbstruck at his ward's performance. “Prithvi is a special talent. I know him from his age of 14. From school days, he was used to making headline He scored four tons in first-class cricket last season. For me, it is how you play in first-class [cricket] that really counts and I am happy with the way he is going,” Amre said.

Mature head

“Although he did well in the U-19 World Cup, leading India to the title, but what’s more important is that he got those 400 to 500 runs in first-class [cricket]. That shows how mature Prithvi is. The IPL is a different opportunity and it’s good that he is grabbing it. He has shown spark that he can get runs in this level against top bowlers,” Amre added.

Rubbishing claims of Shaw's backfoot not moving in tandem with the front leg, Amre said it is something that he isn't worried about, for now. “Every batsman has things to work on. To me, he is scoring the runs and that is what matters. If he is getting out caught in the slips, then the coach has got to work with him, but right now he is middling every single ball and striking it very well. He is getting into great positions as well. Maybe he has to think about it when he plays the red ball. But with the white ball, if you can manage to score over 160 runs in a debut IPL season, it is something special,” Amre explained.

Shaw has managed to catch the admiration of the opposition, too. Sunrisers Hyderabad pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar lauded the young batsman and admitted that he was a treat to watch. “He is a special talent. He has been batting very well. As an opponent, you always want to get him out early but I must admit that I enjoyed his batting, too,” the paceman said.

The ‘special talent’ may have many challenges to face in the future; for now, though, he is passing most tests with flying colours.