RAJKOT: The West Indies last played a Test series in India in 2013. That was also a two-Test affair, organised as a farewell series for Sachin Tendulkar. Fast forward to 2018. The Windies are back for two more Tests. And on Thursday at Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, it felt like the passing of the baton.
Prithvi Shaw had been touted as a future star ever since his exploits as a schoolboy, quite like the legend. There are other similarities as well. Diminutive stature, the brand name on the bat, heck even their physique!
Prithvi Shaw, India’s 293rd Test player, was handed his Test cap by skipper Virat Kohli. And under the blazing sun, the young Mumbaikar sizzled. With the entire country looking to the young man, he delivered and how!
“Growing up in the maidans of Mumbai, he has matured a lot. He does not let these comparisons get to him. He has a clear head on his shoulders and his natural game allows him to dictate terms,” former Mumbai captain Amol Muzumdar told Express. He has seen Shaw from close quarters and considers himself lucky to have seen him blossom.
The visitors are not the force they once were. On top of that, they lost their inspirational captain Jason Holder due to injury. Without him, and Kemar Roach, who left the country owing to the death of his grandmother, their bowling looked pedestrian.
But you can only face what is in front of you and that is what the 18-plus did at the same venue where he made first-class debut in January 2017. Like that occasion, he ended up scoring a ton. Shaw oozed class and you cannot help but admire the confidence the young man displayed. He punched, cut, flicked his way into the record books, becoming the youngest Indian to score a century on Test debut.
The game was only 33 overs old when he punched the air in delight, becoming the youngest Indian after the Little Master to score a Test century. In the process, he continued his tradition of crossing the three-digit mark in debut games (Ranji, Duleep, now India).
It was a tricky start. Shannon Gabriel was steaming in, delivering at over 145 clicks. The more experienced KL Rahul departed without troubling the scorers. But Shaw remained unfazed. Even if he felt the nerves, he did not show it and kept trying to attack the opposition. Something that vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane had mentioned as his strong suit prior to the match.
“I was nervous before the start. When Kohli bhai came in, he asked me to remain calm. He kept praising me in between overs. Everybody has been telling me to play my natural game. I tried to dominate the opposition. I’m happy that it worked.”
In his presence, even local hero Cheteshwar Pujara scored freely. His strike-rate was more than the skipper’s at the end of the day’s play. Such was the domination that at one stage, the hosts were scoring more than a run a minute. Shaw’s destructive innings laid the foundation for an Indian run fest, which Rahane and Kohli continued.
The most striking thing about the opener is how calm he looks. Even during nets on the eve of the Test, he was laughing and joking with senior pros and hardly looked out of place. He has managed to familiarise himself with the dressing room culture and the big names have helped him stay relaxed.
“I got a great experience in England. Sharing the dressing room with all the senior players, with all the stars, they made me comfortable. There was nothing like seniors and juniors. Ravi sir (Shastri) and Virat bhai always said there’s no senior or junior in the team, if you are playing for India, you are one of us. That made me really confident.”
There are chinks in his armour, something that his U-19 coach Rahul Dravid had admitted to. The back leg slides away whenever he tries to drive, he has a tendency to play away from the body, and he leaves a lot of gap between bat and pad. But all these can be corrected with time. For now, let’s enjoy the Shaw time!
India (1st innings): Shaw c & b Bishoo 134, Rahul lbw Gabriel 0, Pujara c Dowrich b Lewis 86, Kohli (batting) 72, Rahane c Dowrich b Chase 41, Pant (batting) 17. Extras (b 9, lb 1, nb 4) 14. Total (4 wkts, 89 ovs) 364. Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-209, 3-232, 4-337. Bowling: Gabriel 18-1-66-1, Paul 10-1-41-0, Lewis 12-0-56-1, Bishoo 30-1-113-1, Chase 16-0-67-1, Brathwaite 3-0-11-0.