Is Prithvi Shaw the Answer to India’s Test Opening Woes Overseas?
Prithvi Shaw is the new buzz word in Indian Cricket. From the original ‘boy wonder’ Sachin Tendulkar to Michael Vaughan, all are effusive in praise for the new ‘boy wonder’. And why not? The eighteen-year-old, in his debut Test against West Indies, showed no nerves and seemed to savour the challenge that came his way. He showcased the free spirit of the youth who is untouched by the fears of failure; and he deserves all the praise and encouragement.
But amidst all this praise for Shaw, let’s look at the bigger picture and see if India can solve their woes for the upcoming Australia tour, for which this West Indies series is simply a preparation. Let’s first analyse Shaw’s innings, focusing more on the manner in which he scored his runs than the amount of runs he mounted up.
First the positives. Shaw is unafraid to pounce on any scoring opportunity. A fast start is a key building-stone to a substantial and even a decent score in overseas tours. This attitude may help him and his team’s cause in overseas conditions, rather than him being hell bent on dourly defending and scoring at a snail’s pace before a good ball inevitably has his number written on it.
Secondly, he showcased an array of attacking shots, including the pull shots. Though it is too early to judge him from just one innings, he seems to have a good technique while playing pull shots. The last great Indian opening batsman in Tests, Virender Sehwag, did not possess one and yet was quite successful in overseas tours.
But not everyone is Sehwag and one cannot overstate the importance of pull shots on fast and bouncy pitches, such as the ones India is going to get in Australia. If Shaw can hone his skills on this particular shot, then he need not evade from bouncers all the time, something that most Indian batsmen are prone to do.
Based on this ‘audition’, albeit a seemingly successful one for the Australia tour, let's look at an area in which Shaw needs to work on. Though he scored a hundred and scored his runs at a fast pace, his lack of footwork would not have escaped anybody’s notice. He seems to rely more on hand-eye co-ordination. In away tours, especially in fast, bouncy ones with a hint of swing, this can spell trouble for any batsman, especially if he happens to be opening the innings.
Here again, one could bring in comparisons with Virender Sehwag and his immense success, despite the lack of foot movements. But for every Sehwag, there are many Sadagopan Ramesh's as well. Shaw must work on his feet movement. Age is on his side, and it seems luck too. With hard work, and some luck, who knows he may be the answer to India’s woes at the top of the batting order in overseas conditions!