Missing Sehwag? No, we have Prithvi Shaw now

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Missing Sehwag? No, we have Prithvi Shaw now

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Bastab K Parida

10/04/2018

“It’s been the Shaw show. Congratulations Prithvi Shaw, abhi toh bas shuruaat hai, ladke mein bahut dum hai (This is just the beginning, the guy has a lot of potential).” Ignore my English translation and you won’t take more than a few seconds to guess who would have crafted this Tweet.

It was none other than the witty Virender Sehwag. Of course, it was not the Viru of bruised batsmanship who made so many world-class bowlers look ordinary. But, unlike his other one-liners, this one is filled with a lot of pride. The world may see Prithvi Shaw as a true heir apparent to Sachin Tendulkar’s colossal throne, considering both were child prodigies and shot to the fame from the rigours of Bombay school cricket, but as far as nostalgia goes, he is Virender Sehwag’s true successor. 

The same grace, attitude to score runs off every ball, the same back-foot punch on the off side, and that wristy flick through mid-wicket, the duo’s debut was more or less on the same note. Today, Prithvi Shaw came, saw, and conquered the Rajkot arena pretty much like the way the “Nawab of Najafgarh” did almost 17 years ago, on his Test debut, on a fiery pitch in Bloemfontein. In that game, Sehwag matched his idol Sachin Tendulkar shot-to-shot on his way to 105, and today, Shaw’s 134 was just the reflection of what he can pull off in the future. 

They say the first ball that you face on a cricket match is the most important delivery. It tells you everything about the mindset of the players and the way he is going to approach the game. And you would be grossly mistaken if you think Shaw had any baggage on those young shoulders. He let the first ball of the day to wicket-keeper Shane Dowrich and was immediately back on the stride. On the very next ball, he rocked back and smashed it through covers for three runs. Nerves! What nerves?

If the first over was just the teaser to intrigue people, then the movie, of course, was going to be a blockbuster. In the next over, Keemo Paul bowled a short ball and was duly punished as Shaw sent it to the point boundary with absolute disdain. Then, there was no stopping the man - Oh, he is a boy - as he started cutting and flicking the balls to add runs in a tickle. He batted like there was nothing to lose.

"Obviously I was nervous, this was my Test debut,” he said in the post-match interview with Sanjay Manjrekar. “But after ten overs, I was hitting the ball well and I was getting the boundaries. I got the confidence and I didn't feel the pressure. I wanted to dominate them as much as I could. I like dominating the bowlers and I was trying that. I was waiting for the loose balls and they bowled many boundary balls. So I was trying to balance it out between playing the ball on its merit and attacking the loose balls."

This exact uncomplicated approach towards batting was what made Virender Sehwag the Virender Sehwag. When India was flirting around the traditional and orthodox openers of the likes of Shiv Sundar Das, Sadagopan Ramesh, and Aakash Chopra, the guy from Delhi came out to bat upon the insistence of Sourav Ganguly and redefined the opening batting in Test cricket. What appears a risky proposition to many, for Sehwag, it was a chance to create something new. It certainly didn’t matter whether his footwork against the moving ball was not what the traditionalist of the game would have liked, but wasn’t it true that Sehwag never wanted to conform to the archaic wisdom?

Cut to present. Shaw has just replaced Shikhar Dhawan as the opener and most certainly, will be on the plane to Australia when India will take on the depleted Aussies in Adelaide. Dhawan’s comeback chances in the near future are slim and in the anticipation of an outswinger and eventually edging it to Jonny Bairstow might well prove to be Murali Vijay’s last act in the international cricket. And Shaw will not have a better opportunity than this to follow suit of Sehwag. Indeed, there will be challenges, but what is the game without its most charismatic ally

Challenges will come in plenty. Scores may elude him at some points. Bowlers will fire on all cylinders and make his stay at the crease miserable. The strip will not be as flat as it was in Rajkot or nor every day the bowling spearhead will be a man who averages 30. There will be a lot of hard days which will test his patience to the limit and he will be frustrated like he was today after the silly dismissal against Devendra Bishoo. Test cricket will seem like the hardest proposition, but when he will feel down and feel like nothing is going on his way, he just needs to give an SOS call to the man from Delhi. Hopefully, that day, everything will fall in place again.

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