After scoring tons of runs in the maidans of Mumbai, hitting centuries on Ranji and Duleep Trophy debut and winning the U-19 World Cup, 18-year-old Prithvi Shaw took another giant step in the cricketing world by debuting in the Indian Premier League (IPL) this season. Having been bought for Rs 1.2 crore by Delhi Daredevils in the auction, Shaw amassed 245 runs from nine matches at 27.22 with a strike rate of 153.2. Prithvi impressed in patches and while his franchise endured another disappointing season, it was all about learning for the young man on debut in one of the biggest leagues in the world.
"I became more mature when I was playing against the international bowlers," Shaw told Firstpost at an event organised by Oppo. "Before my debut (in IPL), Ricky (Ponting) and Gauti (Gautam Gambhir) sir just told me 'Go and enjoy your game, that's it, no pressure nothing.' Those positive lines took me forward and I just went out there, played my natural game and enjoyed it," he added.
Shaw had to wait in the wings for five matches before he got a chance against Kings XI Punjab at the Feroz Shah Kotla. He impressed with a 10-ball 22 cameo and took the momentum forward to hit his maiden IPL fifty in just his second match, at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. One of the moments of the match and may be the League was Shaw's semi-helicopter flick six over mid-wicket off Mitchell Johnson.
"No one" came a prompt reply when Shaw was asked which one bowler he found the most difficult to face. It was a testament to the confidence he had gained over a period of time which has also acted as a catalyst in making him fearless.
"I think I’ve faced each and every difficult bowler over there (in IPL). From now on, it’s no longer a worry. All those thoughts and processes are gone. The thought that ’I’m going to face such and such bowler won’t come to my mind.’ All the positive things… whatever Ponting, Gauti bhai and everyone has said will remain with me."
Playing IPL after the U-19 World Cup wasn't easy; in fact, IPL was a totally different ball game. But all through this, Shaw had a helping hand, that of Ponting.
"I really liked him (Ponting). He was really ruling all of us, not in a literal sense, but in a good way. The advice that he gave us was to just enjoy your game. When I made my IPL debut, I was nervous because there were 40,000 people, with all the cameras around. This wasn’t my first time (in playing in a match which was being telecast) but I was feeling the pressure. However, after hearing Ponting’s positive words, there were positive vibes and rest is just history, whatever I did. I enjoyed myself."
Shaw went on to score another half-century (against SRH) and also came close to scoring another one (47 against Rajasthan Royals). While there was constant motivation off field, Shaw learnt that he had to do it all by himself out in the middle.
"In your life, you’ll face some difficult situations and you’ve to get out of them," Shaw told reporters. "You’ll get support but you’ve to do it yourself. When 40,000 people are shouting (in a stadium) the coach can’t tell you what to do and shout from outside. You’ve to do it on your own. That maturity which I wasn’t having, those things I’ve got now."
Along the way, unsurprisingly, the youngster elicited comparisons with Sachin Tendulkar.
“The first thing you notice is his technique, it’s very similar to Sachin Tendulkar’s,” Mark Waugh had said.
“His grip, his stance, he stays very still at the crease and plays all his shots around the wicket. He plays the ball quite late and is quite punchy in his stroke play and has an excellent base to play any shot from any bowler. He’s just so much like Sachin Tendulkar,” the former Australian batsman had added.
Shaw is flattered but not carried away. There is only one thing in his mind — to keep the runs ticking.
"Obviously, it feels good when such a legend is comparing me with Sachin sir. I can’t compare myself to Tendulkar, because he has already played and done with his 25 years of international career and scored 100 hundreds. So, it’s not easy. I’ve not even stepped in international cricket. So, it’s obviously a big thing for me. I hope to make his words come true and keep scoring runs."
While he impressed with his stroke play, the one concern was the conversion of starts. But again, it was all a part of learning curve for him.
"It was my first experience of the IPL, it didn't go that bad, it wasn't that bad at all. I will keep learning from whatever mistakes I have committed, take that to the next year and not repeat them."
In a few days time, Shaw's journey will take another flight as he gets ready for India A debut on England tour. It's a familiar territory but there will be a switchover required from T20s to longer format. And as always, the youngster is ready.
"This will be the sixth or seventh time I’m going to England. I’ve experienced over there. How the wickets behave, how the conditions will be. What I will be facing over there. So, I’m ready for it to be honest. But obviously when we go there, the conditions are going to be different. So obviously it’s going to be difficult now as well. But a little bit of adjustment is needed. The IPL is a different ball game. Going there and playing in England against England is a different thing. Of course, there are going to be some plans."
The England tour will be another stepping stone towards the coveted India cap and somewhere down the line the confidence gained from the IPL will play a key role in Shaw's success.