Not for nothing is it said that the ‘law is an ass’. For the three wise men, Mumbai was not the equal of the North East states, and as a cricketing entity was ranked below Nagaland, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Tripura, etc when it came to having a voting right in the BCCI.
But cricket aficionados, for whom common sense and logic are paramount, know that it is Mumbai and Mumbai alone which has been the flagbearer of Indian cricket for the past eight decades and more.
The latest, or freshest, whiff of that came from Rajkot, where the Ranji Trophy semifinal between Mumbai and Tamil Nadu concluded on Thursday. A young, 17-year-old Mumbaikar, making his first class debut, revelled stupendously under intense pressure on the final day. His performance proved that India’s cricket nursery was alive and kicking, never mind that they can vote only once every three terms, unlike those North Eastern states who probably would not be able to differentiate between either end of a cricket bat, yet have a vote that could determine the growth, and define the path of Indian cricket.
Prithvi Pankaj Shaw – mark the moniker for you’ll be hearing plenty of it in the future – is one of the most prodigious talents coming out of that glittering west coast city since the incomparable Sachin Tendulkar took the cricketing world by storm at the tender age of 16.
The baby-faced opener is already reckoned by many cricketing pundits as a future India player and it would be difficult to argue with them after seeing the plethora of gigantic scores the youngster has been coming up with in these past few years. There are a string of scores of 400s, 300s, 200s and 100s that leave you in no doubt about the existence of an exciting talent.
In fact, after he made the record-breaking individual score of 546 for his school team Rizvi Springfield in 2013-14, his school team’s coach Rahul Pathak nonchalantly remarked that he was in fine form at that moment and that it was his fourth hundred in the past three weeks. Just to rub it in further, he pointed out that Prithvi had made 225 in the inter-school Giles Shield three years earlier. That is when he was just 11 years of age.
“I’ve been tracking this boy for the last seven years,” said Makarand Waingankar, a talent scout and stout supporter of the Mumbai school of batting. “He’s been scoring so many centuries, including double, triple and quadruple ones that everyone, including he, would have lost count of them. He was born to bat.”
Prithvi had an extremely tough childhood. His father, a cloth merchant, introduced him to the game at the age of three. He lost his mother by the age of four. The family was then staying at Virar, the last station on the Western Railway line in Mumbai, as a Mumbaikar pointed out.
When Prithvi’s enormous talent became evident at a very young age, his father shut his business and concentrated on building his son’s career. This required a three-hour one-way train ride every day from Virar to the MIG Club in Bandra East. Prithvi had to be at MIG nets by 7 AM each morning to follow his passion, and just the journey to and fro would have toughened him like nothing else.
By 2010, when his talent was not in doubt, former India left arm spinner Nilesh Kulkarni’s sports management venture, AAP Entertainment, offered a three-lakh a year scholarship to the boy. This enabled the father and son to shift to a small apartment in Santacruz, which was relatively close to the MIG grounds. Prithvi was just 11 years of age then.
Earlier, when he was just nine, he and his hero Tendulkar had featured in a television show and the batting maestro had presented him with a bat after he had seen him play.
Soon, after further heavy scoring, Prithvi earned a three-month scholarship in 2012 to a school in Manchester. It gave him an opportunity to work on his academics and cricket. The lad soaked up the English conditions and made 1446 runs at an average of 85. For good measure, his off breaks fetched him 68 wickets.
He spent another season in England playing for Gloucestershire Second XI, but really it was the prolific run of scores in Mumbai that caught the imagination. These were not just a few runs, but tons and tons of them.
“A lot of people say that you should have hunger for runs. That’s what I’m trying to do,” he had told a reporter when he was still in his early teens.
“Prithvi is a natural and is blessed with an exceptional temperament,” said Waingankar who had helped the lad procure an SG contract worth Rs 36 laks spread over five years. “We signed him up when he was just 14 years of age. By then he had already revealed a solid defensive technique, temperament, insatiable hunger for runs and stamina,” he said.
Prithvi had always been an opening batsman. “He has the knack to read and understand a pitch. It is his strength. He’s cultivated the art of leaving the ball, which is good for an opening batsman,” said another Mumbai cricketer.
“Prithvi is a good timer of the ball. He is a beautiful driver and because he plays the ball so late it looks so exquisite. Importantly he can also drive off the back foot and this gives him more options,” he added.
Another revealed how the Mumbai think-tank was reluctant to even name him in the Ranji Trophy squad for the semifinal match, until one ex-cricketer insisted that it would be better to lose with a 17-year-old rather than get beaten with a 30-year-old in the ranks.
Strange, but this was the very logic that was used to feature the lad in the playing eleven. It consequently pushed him into national limelight.
All the world loves a young champion and Prithvi has all the makings of one. At just 17 years of age, he is yet another reminder that Mumbai is primed to spawn immensely gifted batsmen, Lodha panel snub to the city notwithstanding.
Updated Date: Jan 06, 2017 12:30 PM