Prithvi Shaw: Next Virat Kohli or Unmukt Chand?
The comparisons are bound to happen. The new kid on the block is no less than a prodigy. He has been touted as the next big thing in Indian cricket after Virat Kohli. But wait, doesn't the comparisons bear an uncanny resemblance to another young Under 19 World Cup winning captain five years ago?
Yes, you are right. It happened with Unmukt Chand as well. It is surely going to happen again. Will he achieve greatness like Virat Kohli or epic fall from grace like Unmukt Chand?
Before finding that out let us take a look back at the career of the two so far:
This one ad wonder looked certain to follow the path laid down by Virat Kohli. He ticked many boxes like winning the Under- 19 World Cup as captain and scoring a match-winning hundred in the finals as well. He was a Delhi boy too. People had started taking notice and were just waiting for him to rise up to the challenge and tread a similar journey like Virat Kohli.
The early praises he received from former great Ian Chappell were well backed by impressive performances in Under- 19 tournaments like World cup, Asia cup, Quadrangular Series where he notched up hundreds in the knockout rounds particularly the Finals. He was being branded as big match player. The hundred in the Final of Vijay Hazare Trophy 2012-13 season bears a testimony to the tag.
But it was not to be. One after another he went into obscurity. First there were dreadful performances in IPL and subsequently being benched for the whole season and then being unsold at the auctions. This trend followed in domestic cricket as well where he has been even dropped for the Delhi state cricket team.
But not being too pessimistic about his future, let us hope that he resurrects his career. He is still just 25 years of age. It is essential that this immense talent is not discarded and is given an opportunity again to redeem himself. With a flurry of domestic batsmen vying for a spot in the Indian team, he needs to produce those crucial knocks throughout the upcoming domestic season to get back into the limelight.
This diminutive Mumbaikar evokes comparisons with Sachin Tendulkar due to his elegant stroke making and similar achievements early into his career. A record-equaling century in his debut Ranji match, as well as Duleep Trophy, was preceded by record-breaking innings of 546 runs in Harris Shield elite division match. Also, he became the youngest cricketer to open the innings for his team Delhi Daredevils this season. As well known Sachin Tendulkar had scored 326 in Harris Shield tournament in 1988 in the highly illustrated and famed 664 runs partnership with Vinod Kambli and was the youngest to score centuries in Ranji debut and Duleep Trophy debut.
But let us stick now to Virat Kohli. Shaw has also successfully led the Under- 19 side to World Cup title recently this year. He followed it up by raking in centuries in the 2017-2018 domestic season and also the Under - 19 tours. With former captain and Under 19 Coach Rahul Dravid to guide him, it seems he is heading in the right direction at the moment.
"Less than a week after India bid its farewell to the Little Master, the Master's Apprentice conjured an innings of almost supernatural brilliance,"wrote Howard Swains in a Freaky Good Futures profile of Shaw.
Already he has showcased his penchant for runs by playing some blistering knocks in this year's IPL. His shotmaking was a wonderful treat to the eye. He looked to attack and scored at a pretty brisk strike rate of 153.12. He must have benefited from the guidance of Australian great and coach of Delhi daredevils Ricky Ponting. It won't be premature to say that he has all the ingredients be a future Indian star.
He looked comfortable at the crease at such a young age, handling the weight of expectations and the rigors of IPL cricket. The traits on full display such as temperament, mental strength combined with gifted strokeplay and a solid technique were a trailer of what may lie ahead. It would not be imprudent to be mindful of the fact that he was only given an opportunity after captain at that time of Delhi Daredevils, Gautam Gambhir resigned and was later dropped due to a string of poor scores. Moreover, he was given a go ahead of an International star like Jason Roy who has been a prolific run-getter in limited overs format of the game.
It would be wise to not get too ahead of ourselves and burden him with unreasonable expectations. Let us hope that he keeps on the good work and maintains his focus on improving his game. He is indeed a prodigy and it would be worthwhile to invest in him. But it would be a cruel joke to this young talent if he goes down the path that unfortunately Unmukt Chand went. The signs of that not happening have been very forthcoming and reassuring as well. Thus, let us keep our fingers crossed and patiently wait for him to gradually make the journey into the team and maybe future greatness like Kohli.