Once in a very long while a youngster walks into the international cricket and blows us all away. A player walks in that makes the veterans wish for a debut all over again. That is how Prithvi Shaw walked in at Rajkot for his Test debut on 4th October 2018 at the age of 18 years 239 days as 293rd Indian Test player.
This was not a surprise at all. Since the moment he shone with scintillating 546 runs in just 330 balls in school cricket in 2013, a record then, it seemed just a matter of time before this kid makes it to the Indian team.
On the first day of year 2017 Prithvi Shaw started his first class career for Mumbai in 2016-17 Ranji Trophy semi-final at Rajkot and scored a century in the second innings. He was also the Man of the Match. What a way to start a year and a career. He later scored a century in Dulip Trophy debut as well. Just like Sachin Tendulkar, the legend he is being compared with.
Ranji and Dulip Trophy centuries on debut, captaining Under19 World Cup team to victory and then delivering strong performances on various tours for India-A had he fortunes rolling towards the ultimate goal – Indian Test team. Apparently, 14 matches, 26 innings and 7 centuries were too much of an experience in the first class cricket to blood him in the Indian test team. As if the selectors were waiting for him grow a bit mature rather than him waiting for his first chance at the international stage like other mortals.
He was eventually selected for India in the test series against England but did not get a chance to play. However, when India decided to drop both Murli Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan for the Test series against West Indies at home, Shaw's debut was confirmed. That too ahead of Ranji run machine Mayank Agarwal, another opener who is still waiting for his debut. That is how difficult it has been to delay Prithvi’s entry at the international stage.
He did not disappoint a tad bit. Deciding to face the first ball of the match, he looked set from the moment Shannon Gabriel ran in to bowl. The spectators needed to be told that this is his first test. He probably needed to be told the same too for he didn't seem to know or mind the situation at all. There was no rustiness. No inhibitions. No nerves. There were a clam and a high backlift waiting to make its move every time the ball left the bowler’s hand. There was a confidence that suggested – I got this.
He started off with a backfoot punch and scored his first boundary with a similar shot. He is predominantly a backfoot player with high backlit – something like Brian Lara – but gets forward as soon as the ball is pitched slightly up. He has multiple shots for the balls pitched at almost the same spot. The range of shots he unfurled in his debut innings and the conviction with which he executed them suggested he had the experience of a hundred Tests behind him.
While we were marvelling at the batting skills on display and West Indies were still figuring out what had hit them, Prithvi Shaw reached to a century in just 99 deliveries. The kid had arrived. And how!
Not many players break records in the first innings of the Test Career. But nothing that happened at Rajkot suggested he is like many. Prithvi Shaw became the second youngest Indian to score a test hundred behind Sachin Tendulkar and the youngest Indian on debut surpassing Ali Abbas Baig.
He became only the third player overall to score a less than run a ball century on debut after Dwyane Smith and Shikhar Dhawan. He is the fourth youngest test debutant to score a century on debut and 7th youngest overall.
It is one thing though to start well at international stage and completely another to continue doing so. Prithvi Shaw will be analysed. He will be figured out. He will be probed. He will be asked tough questions on the field. Home and away. His failure will be a bigger news than his success. He will have to adjust. He will have to adapt. It going to be a test, mentally more than physically, especially for an inherently attacking new generation player like Prithvi Shaw.
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