Let's put the IPL on the backburner for a bit and go back to late October 2022: India were preparing to name squads for upcoming tours to Bangladesh and New Zealand, and it seemed Prithvi Shaw had a shot at making at least one of those sides.
The right-handed batter had set the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy alight, and was batting perhaps as well as he has done in recent times. But when the teams were announced, he did not feature, prompting him to put up an Instagram story, asking Sai Baba (the almighty) to watch the injustice as it was unfolding.
That immediately became the talk of the town, for it was so cryptic in nature, and because it had come from Shaw – a player who has not been short on hype since leading India to Under-19 World Cup glory in 2018. It also became quite pertinent because the last time he played for the Men In Blue, he looked completely out of sorts.
This was, in many ways, his opportunity to show countless fans across the country how far he had come, and how he was not the batter who struggled during India’s tour of Australia in 2020-21. But with him not finding a place, it was back to the drawing board.
Then, he saw a few of his contemporaries jump ahead of him in the national queue. To their credit, they grabbed whatever chances they received with both hands. Understandably, all eyes were trained on how Shaw would fare in the 2023 edition of the IPL. Just to see how he would let the bat do the talking (if at all).
The IPL is not quite international cricket but is the closest any franchise T20 league is to the real deal. With Rishabh Pant absent due to injuries sustained in an unfortunate accident, plenty was expected of Shaw.
The first half of the season, though, did not quite pan out as Shaw would have envisioned. He mustered only 47 runs in six innings, and looked a shadow of the batter that had made the country sit up and take notice after a century on Test debut.
What was more worrying was that he was finding ways to get out. The usual bravado that accompanies him was not present either, and the strokes that have become the envy of many were not prevalent features. With the Delhi Capitals not covering themselves in glory elsewhere, he was unsurprisingly dropped.
And that was the case……until DC played the Punjab Kings in Dharamsala.
Prithvi Shaw scores a fifty on his IPL return
Thus, just like it was at the start of the season, there were eyeballs trained on Shaw. But this time, the 23-year-old ensured that he made his chance count, and more importantly, ensured that those who had pinned their hopes on him were vindicated.
This innings did not quite start with the bang a usual Shaw knock does. He was 10 off 10 at one stage and was being troubled incessantly by Kagiso Rabada. But when Arshdeep Singh erred in length, the DC opener was ready to capitalise.
He hit two pulls in the fifth over and once that happened, the Shaw of old seemed to come back. He dominated thereafter, and while he fell while trying to up the ante, he had given DC the sort of foundation they have been craving for in IPL 2023.
The scorecard might show that Shaw scored 54 off 38 balls. In an IPL game where more than 400 runs were scored, hindsight might perhaps indicate that his strike rate was not high as it should have been. Just view it from the perspective of what has happened this IPL season, though, and it is not tough to understand why this innings might mean so much to him and possibly Indian cricket in the future.
Prior to Wednesday, Shaw had only scored 47 runs in IPL 2023. Apart from his struggles on the pitch, there was plenty people had to say on social media, and some of it, while a little unwarranted, was certainly vile and cruel, especially on someone who is just 23 years old.
Of course, one knock is not going to guarantee him a place in the Indian team, nor it is going to push him ahead of those who have jumped him on the impending national team queue. What this innings will do, however, is provide a gentle reminder to everyone of what he remains capable of.
It is sort of poetic that his best contribution has come after DC have been knocked out of the reckoning. But just like DC, he flexed his muscles just enough on Wednesday to not completely slip into oblivion.
A long redemption road awaits. Now, though, he has something to build on. Not sure that was the case at the start of the campaign, or at any other point prior to the game against PBKS in Dharamsala.
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