At the start of 2018, the Indian U-19 side, led by Prithvi Shaw rocked up on Kiwi shores and enthralled the audiences as they powered their way to an unprecedented triumph. Unsurprisingly, there was plenty of hype surrounding those who had participated, with none generating as much fanfare as the skipper.
A few months later, Prithvi Shaw made his international bow against the West Indies, immediately capturing the imagination of the cricketing fraternity en route a blazing ton. In fact, that innings showcased such unparalleled talent that countless people were left gaping in awe, while others rejoiced at the prospect of another genuine stroke-maker in the Indian ranks.
The series against the Caribbean outfit was followed by a potentially litmus test Down Under, wherein Prithvi Shaw was expected to spearhead the Men In Blue’s conquest against Australia. Unfortunately, he injured himself prior to that assignment, meaning that his tryst with destiny Down Under hadn’t arrived until very recently.
And, having seen his recent travails on Australian soil, one can’t help but wonder if India would’ve scaled the peaks they did (in 2018-19) with Prithvi Shaw in the mix. More importantly though, it has opened a pandora’s box of quandaries, with those ranging from whether he was rushed into the international fold or even, if he is good enough to don the nation’s colours on a regular basis.
Ever since surging into the limelight, Prithvi Shaw has remained a batsman capable of thrilling the audiences with his flamboyance. More lately though, that very promise of audacious stroke-play has drawn collective moans and groans of frustrations. In fact, his wretched form in 2020 has even cast light on a few inherent deficiencies in his batting technique.
Prithvi Shaw has often been compared to Virender Sehwag
To be fair to Prithvi Shaw, he was never really averse to the odd technical flaw, having often been compared to Virender Sehwag, owing to his ability to offset his lack of foot movement with superlative hand-eye coordination. However, while Virender Sehwag nearly plundered every attack he faced, Prithvi Shaw can’t seem to buy a run. So, where does the discrepancy lie?
Firstly, Virender Sehwag, despite not moving his feet too much, never found himself out of shape for any stroke. When the right-hander wanted to cut, he got into the requisite position whereas he wasn’t too shabby while playing off the front foot as well. The most telling aspect though, was that he used to gauge the length early and transfer his weight accordingly – something Prithvi Shaw simply hasn’t managed to do.
In both of his dismissals at the Adelaide Oval, Prithvi Shaw could be seen walking into his strokes, rather than planting his front foot with any conviction. Subsequently, that has left an enormous gap between bat and pad, with Sunil Gavaskar claiming that even a truck would’ve gone through. Not many would disagree though.
Furthermore, on the few occasions when Prithvi Shaw gets onto the front foot, he never really transfers his weight onto the balls of his feet, rather landing on his heel as he plays his shots.
Consequently, he seldom establishes a strong base at the crease to cover for any potential seam movement, with that aspect being exploited mercilessly during the recently concluded IPL.
In fact, such has been his tendency to not get to the pitch of the ball that his Delhi Capitals coach Ricky Ponting predicted his exact mode of dismissal a ball prior to when it unfolded. And, if a commentator can envision how a batsman can be sent packing, surely the scores of analysts on the opposition would do so too, wouldn’t they?
Additionally, Prithvi Shaw has a rather elaborate back-lift that comes all the way from gully. Though that enables him to swish at the ball and do so with some considerable punch, it also forces him to play around the delivery at times. To put things into perspective, his bat never aligns itself in a straight line with the ball and almost always comes down at an angle, meaning that the full face of the bat is rarely on hand to meet the ball.
Most worryingly though, Prithvi Shaw, unlike batsmen of pedigree, has portrayed different ways of getting out.
To put things into context, Prithvi Shaw looks circumspect against the delivery that decks back into him from a right-arm pacer, whereas he is equally tentative against a left-arm fast bowler swinging the ball into him.
Apart from that, he also has a propensity to waft at deliveries that ought to be left alone, while his lack of footwork when batting against spin has left an awful lot to be desired. And, to put things bluntly, that pretty much makes him a liability against all types of bowling.
Over the years, numerous batsmen have had issues against a particular bowling modus operandi. Virat Kohli looked lackadaisical against the moving ball in 2014 against England, yet found ways to correct it. Cheteshwar Pujara, on the other hand, has looked a tad vulnerable against the ball that nips back into him but has still scored plenty of runs.
And, while it is completely human to boast chinks in your batting armour, the key difference is that the aforementioned players have often found ways to offset those weaknesses with the strengths they boast.
Unfortunately for Prithvi Shaw, his ailments outweigh any possible cure he can come up with, at least for now, meaning that he has looked clueless in the international circuit.
Another facet that might have been pulling Prithvi Shaw down could be the fact that he has been asked to mould himself like Virender Sehwag. Rather famously, post his maiden hundred, Ravi Shastri had quipped that Prithvi Shaw had a bit of Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and of course, Virender Sehwag in his mannerisms. Not much pressure then, eh?
While it may not be something that has been asked of him by the team management explicitly, his performances have indicated that that thought has lingered around for quite a while. In turn, he hasn’t really been able to carve an identity for himself or identify a course of action that suits the resources at his disposal.
There is no doubt on whether Prithvi Shaw has the talent to succeed on the international stage. The more pressing question is whether he has the temperament to find a technique that helps him optimize his potential. Maybe, the Indian team could be wise and provide him with enough confidence to go back to domestic cricket and evolve a mechanism that might serve him, in the years to come.
One thing has become painfully clear though, over the past few days. And, that spells the same as Prithvi Shaw being a walking wicket and one who simply has no answers to the conundrums staring at him. Yet, with him only being 21 years old, he has the luxury of time.
After all, the likes that he has been collated to, namely Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, too tided over the inevitable troughs they encountered.
And, if he can indeed be compared to those greats, it is perhaps time that he takes inspiration from their proclivity to overcome rough patches as well.Published 18 Dec 2020, 18:51 IST