If you’re good enough you’re old enough. It’s one of sport’s most commonly used phrases to describe potential prodigies. To say it is overused is an understatement. Yet look at Prithvi Shaw and think again.
Two weeks ago the 18-year-old received a phone call by India’s national selectors that he would be in with a shout of a test debut in the fourth test at The Ageas Bowl.
Although not chosen to play in the first eleven he’ll no doubt become the 11th youngest test player in the country’s coveted cricket history at some point in the future.
And you can see why.
Hope In The Face Of Heartbreak
Vihar, Maharastra, just south of the capital city of New Dehli, is over 1200km to Mumbai. But it appeared that Prithvi Shaw would have to make that journey early on in his childhood.
It looked like Shaw would grow up in the traditional suburbian livelihood, with support from both parents in advancing a trading career. Similar to that of his father at the time.
But at just the age of three tragedy struck when his mother suddenly passed away from asthma. Lifestyles immediately changed and with extra support out of school necessary Shaw signed up for his local cricket club.
He didn’t look back. By the age of eight, he became a captain at the Vihar Cricket Academy, with a degree of cautious consistency marked with brutal batting. An attraction for scouts in the area.
So it was perhaps no surprise that in 2010 Shaw was offered a contract by AAP Entertainment. Endorsed by the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag. Consequently it allowed him and his father to move to Mumbai.
Shaw By Name, Sure By Nature
Now with the infrastructure in place, Shaw could concentrate on technique; surrounded by equipment able to track his everyday progress.
Leadership though is what separated a rising prodigy from the rest of the pack. Hitting the front on and off the pitch, Shaw continued studies behind the scenes but no doubt his passion for cricket overrode that in regards to the attention that he started to receive.
Rizvi Springfield High School, a concrete white tower block next to a fish market, became home for the next few years. But so did the batting crease round the back.
In the biggest match of his career, with a large majority of those in the school crowds hoping that their captain would deliver, Shaw knocked off 155 in the semi-final and then 174 in the final. The following year’s triumph became a procession. One that included a historic figure that reverberated around the world.
546 Ain’t Stopping Me
Sachin Tendulkar had carried the hopes of a India for 24 years but on November 16, 2013, finally decided to hang up his boots and call it a day. It was ironic then that four days later the continuation of that legacy would roll on in the city that Tendulkar called home.
546 runs in a cricket match doesn’t materialise too often for a team, let alone for one batsman. But Shaw in one spectacular moment of cricketing carnival chaos achieved just that feat in the second of the school’s heralded Harris Shield successes. Final score? 991 played 93. Yep.
Unsurprisingly India’s 24-hour news channels caught the wind, so that night the public were engrained to the TV sets watching replays of Shaw’s cover drives over and over again. Each their own shot. It was that kind of innings. The fourth highest in the history of the game, that catapulted Shaw to national limelight.
A One-Man Team
Opening cricket matches aren’t easy. Just ask any English opener trying to fill the boots of Andrew Strauss. Yet Shaw has so far made it look simples.
The stats speak for themselves. After the mammoth innings in school games in Mumbai, Shaw was invited to play in the Ranji Trophy, the country’s biggest domestic competition after the Indian Premier League.
On debut, Shaw wearied the opposition bowling line-up; the majority of deliveries down the leg-side. Any bad delivery down the off-side was punished to the boundary. A ton inevitable in the end. The first by a Mumbai batsman for over 23 years. Tendulkar, of course, was the last.
Calls came along as quickly as Shaw produced runs and soon the once nervous boy, alone with his father in Vihar, strutted onto the lush green on-fields of Cheadle Hulme School in Manchester.
Given the precariousness of away test sides abroad, India’s last test series win in England in 2007 being a perfect example, practice and preparation in contrasting conditions to that of being at home is never going to be criticised.
Neither is tearing it up in those either. Over a two-month period, Shaw knocked up 1,446 runs, scoring yet another century on debut. An average of 84 spoke volumes of the talent that stood before those watching. Only Donald Bradman reached greater heights.
But what really stood out was Shaw’s role in a match between Cryptics vs Middleton Stoney Cricket Club on a cloudy afternoon in the Oxfordshire countryside. On paper, not the most dramatic tie. Tet one that proved pivotal with Shaw racking up 68 runs in just under ten overs. To understand the conditions you’d need to glance across at the scorecard. Highlighting that whilst Shaw had cruised past 50 his partner hadn’t reached double figures!
Champions Of The World
After captaining Mumbai’s U16s Shaw was subsequently offered the role of a place within the India U19 set-up. Soon the record-breaking batsman had established himself at the top of the order. Not long until he ended up leading out his country in an international competition.
And to say that the U19 World Cup in 2018 became a foregone conclusion would be an understatement. After topping their group India waltzed to the final but came up against a stern Australia side.
Although Shaw only managed 29 runs, chasing down the Aussie’s total of 216 with ultimate ease. Triumphing by eight wickets. In doing so Shaw became only the fourth winning Indian captain at U19 level. Following the likes of Parthiv Patel in 2002, Virat Kohli in 2008 and Unmukt Chad in 2012.
Look more closely however and you’ll discover that in comparison to all three of those batsmen Shaw’s average of 65 dwarfed the rest. A list that includes the current Indian captain…
What Of The Future?
Speak to any Australian and they will tell you that the greatest cricketer of all time is Donald Bradman. Ask any Indian the same question and the answer will translate to Sachin Tendulkar.
So to be likened to Tendulkar continuously by the people who love and adore him is perhaps the greatest accolade Prithvi Shaw can receive at this point.
A call-up to the senior international squad for the last two tests is not surprising in the slightest, even though Shaw is 18. It’s more ‘when’ than if he will succeed at this point. To maintain such a controlled level of temperament, on a myriad of batting surfaces, is a testament to such a character. Prithvi Shaw just ignores all the hype and expectation to stay humble. Believing that concentrating on family roots is synonymous with success and fruition on and off the field.
Test cricket at the highest level is quite another thing. But if somebody has the ability to manage that then Shaw’s your guy.