With Prithvi Shaw set to make his debut for India against West Indies at Rajkot, Patrick Noone looks at the credentials of India’s newest star.
The captain, opening batsman and talisman of India’s victorious U19 World Cup win in February is one of the hottest prospects in Indian cricket. Despite his tender age of just 18, Shaw already has a lot of cricket under his belt. His first eight matches for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy have seen him rack up 776 runs at an average of 51.73 and he also struck 154 for India Red in the 2017 Duleep Trophy Final.
That form earned Shaw a call up to India A’s tour to England this year where he scored 250 runs in two matches. More recently, Shaw faced South Africa A on home soil where he added 136 in the first unofficial Test in Bangalore before missing out in the second match with scores of 16 and 4. That was a rare failure for this most precocious of talents; from the 14 First Class matches in which Shaw has featured, he has only twice failed to pass 50 in the match.
However, Shaw is a multi-faceted player and far from a red ball specialist. He made his IPL debut earlier this year for Delhi Daredevils, featuring in nine of their 14 matches. Two fifties in the tournament showed a glimpse of his class while his ability to score quickly without being reckless was displayed by the fact that only seven players with 200 runs or more had a higher run rate, yet 21 players had a higher attacking shot percentage.
Shaw rose to prominence during this year’s U19 World Cup as he led a talented India side to a record fourth title. His 94 against Australia in India’s opening match formed part of a 180-run partnership with Manjot Kalra and set his side on their way to a 100-run victory. Shaw performed his role as an opener exceptionally throughout the tournament, scoring at 5.74 runs per over in the Powerplay without being dismissed once.
As for Shaw’s technique, he is a compact right-hander who showed throughout the tournament that he was particularly adept at playing square of the wicket. He played the flick through midwicket six times for 21 runs. He played the pull shot 13 times for 31 runs. He played the cut shot 34 times for 43 runs. Only once was he dismissed playing any of these shots; the sign of an authoritative player who is decisive in his shot selection.
Perhaps the only question remaining from Shaw’s U19 World Cup campaign was whether or not he could play top quality spin. With the tournament taking place in New Zealand, pitches were not spin-friendly and Shaw only faced 58 balls of spin throughout his five innings (though he was not dismissed once by a spinner in the whole tournament).
However, his Ranji Trophy record suggests he is more than capable of facing slow bowlers on turning pitches. In fact, Shaw’s record against both seam and spin is remarkably similar in India’s premier First Class competition. All of these factors point to a young player who possesses a game well-rounded beyond his years.
Shaw is evidently an aggressive opener; his First Class run rate of 4.60 runs per over is higher than both Shikhar Dhawan (4.02) and KL Rahul (3.51) have achieved at Test level. Both Dhawan and Rahul are thought of as attacking opening batsmen yet Shaw appears to have the ability, the confidence and the intent to play the role of the aggressor. For reference, Virender Sehwag’s run rate in Tests was 4.93 runs per over.
There is no doubting Shaw’s talent but he will be under pressure to perform immediately at the top of the order. The opening partnership is an area of the team that India’s selectors have been particularly twitchy about in recent years: eight different pairs involving six different players have been used in Tests since the start of 2016. Shaw has been handed his chance now in the wake of Shikhar Dhawan’s omission from the squad but, with Mayank Agarwal also making a compelling case for inclusion from within the 15-man squad, Shaw will need to make the most of his opportunity. Up to now, there is plenty to suggest he will succeed.
Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.