Prithvi Shaw seems to have put a haunting period behind him after hitting a List A double hundred in India’s Vijay Hazare Trophy – only the fourth in the competition’s 19-year history.
The opening batsman, who scored a hundred in his first Test as an 18-year-old, lost his place in the national team after a period of diminishing returns that brought him just 102 runs in six innings after a whirlwind start against the West Indies.
And a disappointing 2020 IPL, in which he averaged just 17, his final 10 innings for Delhi Capitals producing just 91 runs, had observers worrying whether the player would ever recover the kind of form that made him such a prodigious talent.
He proved particularly susceptible to the pace and swing of Trent Boult, who dismissed him three times in the tournament, and India’s new fast-bowling find Mohammed Siraj, who captured him twice. But it was his airy attitude at the top of the order that worried many – in four innings he lasted no more than three balls and in another two not even so much as an over.
And after three matches on India’s tour to Australia – two against Australia A and then against the senior team in the Adelaide debacle – he managed just 66 runs in six innings and India’s selectors had seen enough.
But shortly after many had written him off at the tender age of 21, and Shubman Gill got his chance to show his talent at the top of the India Test order, the first shoots of recovery were seen.
In his first appearance for Mumbai against Delhi in this year’s domestic 50-over competition he made 105 not out as his team chased a total of 212 to win in just 31.5 overs. And he followed up in his third game with a stunning undefeated 227 as Mumbai hammered Puducherry for 457 for four – the fourth-highest List A score on record.
His innings, which included 31 fours and five sixes, came off only 152 balls. It was the third highest score by an Indian in List A cricket, beaten only by Rohit Sharma’s 264 in an ODI against Sri Lanka in Kolkata in 2014, and Shikhar Dhawan, who hit 248 for India A against South Africa A in Pretoria the year before.
Shaw had always appeared a precocious talent – he scored 546 in a school game at the age of 14 – but doubts were raised early on about whether his technique, based on flamboyant strokeplay with little foot movement apart from small trigger movements with his back leg towards square leg, would survive the scrutiny from opponents that comes at the top level.
The man he is most often compared with – Virender Sehwag – didn’t fare too badly in Test cricket, though, averaging almost 50 from his 104 matches at a strike rate of 82. Shaw already has an average of 42 and a strike rate four runs higher than Sehwag, who didn’t get his opportunity in Test cricket until he had just turned 23. Like Shaw, he scored a century on Test debut.
Former India opener Aakash Chopra cautioned India not to give up on Shaw in an article on Cricinfo in December. As he stepped into the captain’s role for the first time in the win over Puducherry, is it too early to say we are seeing the first signs of a second coming?