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Ranji Trophy: Prithvi Shaw's timely emergence completes the picture for Mumbai

Seldom does one make it big in Indian cricket outside the parentheses of youth. Remaining oblivious to that imposing reality could be 17-year old Prithvi Shaw's greatest strength, along with his precocious talent, which helped him stand out in the din of Mumbai cricket through his marathon knock of 546 for Rizvi Springfield school at the age of 14. After all, not all life lessons are worth learning young. Sometimes ignorance truly is a bliss.

Actor Joseph Gordon Levitt, who plays a wire artist in The Walk, and dreams to walk the enchanting void between the Twin Towers, regarded the final few paces of the stunt most dangerous. He believed that he was at his most vulnerable when he was aware of what he was about to achieve.

To put things into perspective, three years on, Shaw tackled the pressure of a Ranji Trophy debut, in no less than a semi-final against Tamil Nadu with skill, but also the uninhibited naivety that Levitt advocated. Consequently, he became the first debutant from Mumbai, to notch up a hundred in the Ranji Trophy since the venerable Amol Muzumdar.

File photo of Prithvi Shaw. Image courtesy: CNN News18

File photo of Prithvi Shaw. Image courtesy: CNN News18

The same Amol Muzumdar spoke to Firstpost and explained how a cricketer in the nascent stage of his career benefits from adhering to homespun ideals such as playing purely for the love of the game. "I don't think you realise what you are doing, you don't overthink anything, and just go with the flow. That is how it should be"

After all, how can the fear of failure exist when you don't completely understand the gravity of a situation? His gung-ho approach to batting further exemplifies the aforesaid. Come rain or shine, Shaw sticks to playing his natural game. If anything, he can be guilty of attacking excessively. When he was in Sri Lanka for the Asia Cup with the India under-19s, Shaw's strike rate was consistently clear of a hundred, notwithstanding the inconsistency.

However, there are lessons that the sport itself teaches. Take for instance Shaw’s first innings failure and subsequent redemption against Tamil Nadu. More seasoned men have succumbed to the monstrosities of self-doubt stemming from past indiscretions. But Shaw appeared unperturbed. This wasn't the lack of awareness about the naked truth that he had failed in the first innings but more likely a strong defence mechanism to erase from the mind any negativity. Not only did Shaw emphatically turn things around for himself, in what was a stiff fourth innings chase, but he also showcased a special ability to treat every delivery, every moment, and every challenge he faced in complete isolation.

Muzumdar, who incidentally mentored Shaw at the National Cricket Academy (NCA, Bangalore) opined that a smooth transition from the under-19’s to First-Class cricket hinges on the mental make-up of the individual rather than the technical aspects of one’s game. He was particularly impressed by Shaw’s determination to remain in the present.

“It is not about your technique when you step up the ladder, it is about the temperament. It is crucial how you handle match situations and how quickly you learn how to self-analyse. For me it was Shaw’s temperament that stood out in this match. Of course he is technically very sound. He is good both of the front and back foot, which I saw at the NCA last year but the temperament that he showed was exceptional.

"To chase down 250 in the fourth innings in a big game, to forget about the first innings and come back strongly. That is what sport teaches you, to forget about the failures and concentrate on the next big thing that is coming.”

In Shaw’s case the next big thing is a shot at delivering his team an enviable 42nd Ranji Trophy title. With his dramatic emergence, at a highly opportune hour, the final piece of the jigsaw seems to have fallen in place for Mumbai. May posterity be the judge of whether Shaw succeeds in showcasing the same youthful intrepidity on the podium of a big final, and beyond.

Updated Date: Jan 07, 2017 17:04 PM

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