"I never give up easily, mei Virar ka ladka hoon (I am a Virar boy)"- these words from Prithvi Shaw in one of his interviews speak volumes about the mental strength possessed by the 21-year-old.
In his short career so far, the youngster has seen a lot of highs and lows. Yet, the maturity and courage Prithvi Shaw has shown during tough situations has been commendable, to say the least.
After a disastrous outing in the Australian series, which saw him lose his place in the Indian Test team, Shaw responded with a blazing campaign in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
In the absence of senior players, Shaw admirably led for the front as his record run-tally inspired Mumbai to their fourth title in the competition.
In eight games. The youngster scored an impressive tally of 827 runs, doing so at a stupendous average of 165.4. Prithvi Shaw also scored four centuries, including a mind-boggling 227* against Puducherry, to record the highest List A score by a captain.
Despite his blistering exploits, Prithvi Shaw couldn't find himself a place in Team India's ODI squad for the three-match series against England. This news was met with mixed reactions from fans.
Some believed that the right decision was made, given Shaw's woeful form in Australia. Others, however, felt that as the likes of Krunal Pandya and Prasidh Krishna were rewarded for their performances in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, Prithvi Shaw also deserved similar treatment.
On that note, let's analyse if the selectors made the right call by keeping Prithvi Shaw out of the ODI set-up for the time being.
Prithvi Shaw's stop-start international career
A 19-year-old Prithvi Shaw made a blazing start to his international career, scoring a brilliant 134 on debut while showcasing his attacking play against a struggling West Indies bowling attack. He scored 237 runs in the two-match series, doing so at an outstanding average of 118.5.
Drawing parallels with Virender Sehwag because of his attacking play, Prithvi Shaw was immediately touted as a mainstay in the Indian Test team. However, an ankle injury robbed him of an opportunity to play the Australian series Down Under in 2018-19. With Mayank Agarwal grabbing his opportunity with both hands, that didn't help Prithvi Shaw's case either.
Another injury, this time to his hip, prevented his participation in the Test series away in the West Indies in 2019. He was keen to get his fitness up to the mark and make a comeback. But just then, Shaw experienced another unfortunate incident.
The youngster tested positive for consuming a recreational drug that was found in his cough syrup, which got him banned for eight months. It was tough on Prithvi Shaw, as he claimed he had no idea about the same. But he had to serve the ban and had to once again find the motivation to come back stronger.
And so he did, displaying fine form for Mumbai in the 2019-20 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. His impressive performances earned him a call-up to the India A team that toured New Zealand. A sensational 150 off 100 balls against New Zealand A was enough for the youngster to make the Indian ODI team for the first time.
Prithvi Shaw scored an impressive 40 in one of his innings. However, he failed to convert his starts in the series, only scoring 84 runs in the three ODIs. He was particularly found wanting against incoming deliveries due to his lack of feet movement.
A sole fifty in the Test series against New Zealand, despite a poor IPL 2020 outing, kept him in the Indian team for the 2020-21 Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
The Indian team management showed faith in Prithvi Shaw, who still had an average of above 50 in Test cricket till that point. But the right-hander failed to make the most of the opportunity Down Under.
His weakness to incoming deliveries that nip back and his high backlift were ruthlessly exploited by the Australian fast bowlers.
He was castled in both innings of the Adelaide pink-ball Test for 0 and 4, respectively. Subsequently, Prithvi Shaw lost his place in the Indian Test side and was ignored for the red-ball series against England at home.
The rise of Shubman Gill in this period has further diminished the chances of the 21-year-old making a Test comeback anytime soon.
Australian legend and Delhi Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting has pointed out the faults in Shaw's technique, something the 21-year-old wants to work on. Even the great Sachin Tendulkar told the youngster to play closer to his body while keeping the same intent.
Although Prithvi Shaw was able to make a sensational turnaround in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, it wasn't enough for him to warrant a place in the ODI squad. But there a few reasons why the 21-year-old might will need to wait for a while longer for another opportunity.
The Indian ODI team has a settled opening combination
In Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, Team India have one of the most successful ODI opening pairs in the modern era. The duo has batted together for almost eight years and are virtually indispensable for the team, thanks to their incredible consistency in one-day cricket.
With the likes of Shubman Gill and KL Rahul in the ODI setup as well, there is no space for Prithvi Shaw in the team, even as a backup opener. Patience will be the key for the 21-year-old if he wants to make his ODI comeback.
Prithvi Shaw will need to show more consistency
Just one stellar season might not be enough for Prithvi Shaw to claim a berth in the ODI squad. While his talent has never been in doubt, the 21-year-old will need to display consistency to stake a place in the ODI team.
There will be no Ranji Trophy this season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, Prithvi Shaw has the IPL 2021 season to look forward to bolster his white-ball credentials. Against world-class bowling attacks, Prithvi Shaw will need to score a lot of runs to get back into reckoning.
India A tours could be key for Prithvi Shaw
After dominating in batting-friendly conditions, Prithvi Shaw should look to do the same against quality opposition in testing situations. If he scores runs on pitches with swing and bounce, the right-hander will fancy his chances of a comeback to the Indian ODI team.
This is where the India A tours would become crucial. If Shaw manages to score heaps of runs in seaming conditions, it will not only give him confidence but also force the national selectors to consider him for the limited-overs squad.
Prithvi Shaw has learnt the hard way that for all the talent in the world, there is no substitute for hard work. In this regard, he doesn't have to look any further for inspiration than current Indian captain Virat Kohli.
As Mumbai lifted the Vijay Hazare Trophy, Prithvi Shaw would have fancied his chances of a swift return to the Indian ODI fold.
However, that did not happen. But Prithvi Shaw still has the ball on his side of the court. He will need to demonstrate that he can score big consistently against the best of attacks in any condition.