VEDANT SHARMA | 23 OCTOBER, 2018
The next Tendulkar? Hold on on that comparison.
The 18-year-old Prithvi Shaw's Test career has already accomplished a major feat -- as Shaw became the youngest since Sachin Tendulkar in 1989 to be handed the cap as a specialist batsman. Things only got better with Shaw’s superlative hundred against Windies in the opener of the series. In so doing, Prithvi Shaw became the 15th Indian to score a Test century on debut -- a dream start to what is expected to be a long career.
His punches off the backfoot and his straight drives reminded us of Sachin Tendulkar’s. At the same time, his attacking strokeplay are an indication that the Indian team has finally been able to find an opener of Sehwag's capabilities.
Comparisons are not new when it comes to cricket analysis. It started with Sachin Tendulkar being compared to Sunil Gavaskar, and then Virat Kohli was compared to Sachin Tendulkar, and now, even after producing some cracker performances, the skipper Virat has been kept aside as Shaw is compared to Tendulkar.
However, a player is a product of the environment he inherits, the players he has around, the coaches he has for advice, the bowlers he faces, the format he is playing, the spectators around and … the list goes on.
Knowing all this, can we let the young gun blaze without any expectations?
There wasn't a shadow of a doubt regarding Prithvi Shaw's talent right from his initial days. Smashing 546 runs in the Harris Shield tournament in school in 2013, his was the highest score in any form of competitive cricket at the time, until surpassed by one Pranav Dhanawade in 2016. Since then, he was watched closely by the selection committee to see whether has the credentials to play at the top most level.
His phenomenal performance in Harris Shield Cup was followed by several others of note, including centuries on his debut in both the Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy, a feat which was previously only achieved by another Mumbaikar -- Sachin Tendulkar.
This was when the comparison was first drawn on a great magnitude with the master blaster and Shaw was soon hailed as one who can emulate Tendulkar when it comes to Indian cricket’s future.
His consistency and temperament led him to feature in India's Under-19 team as captain. In his captaincy, the Indian team clinched the World Cup title and was praised all over the world. He smashed 261 runs at an astonishing average of 65 with two crucial fifties to his name.
The dazzling stint further helped him to be a part of the premier franchise-based T20 league and play for India A.
At different levels, one thing which has remained constant - an unprecedented hunger for runs and results that translate.
The victorious punch after his stroke-filled ton was however not witnessed by many at the Rajkot -- but will still remain special to the youngster. Going forward, it will be important for him to take one game at a time and not let the expectations take over. The Indian skipper Virat Kohli has already said in a media conference that the management is looking to give ample opportunities to the players who are roped in, which automatically should act as a booster.
Shaw's century debut has already made the return of Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay a tad difficult.
However, he will be well equipped with the thought that international Cricket is altogether a different stage where praises turn into questions in minutes. There was no doubt that he would make it this far but now that he is here; it will be interesting to see if he is able to cement his place in the side.
The Indian team will lock horns against the Aussies on their home soil in a month's time which eventually will help Shaw test his real skill set and mental character. Australia - a place where some of the greats have struggled, Shaw will be determined to make the opportunity count.
With good opportunities, correct guidance, Shaw may well be our own batting prodigy. He can make the spectators stand on their feet, and make it to the book of records in coming years. But for now, it is important to let him be 'him' and treat him as India's new opener, rather than comparing his game to any of the past greats.