Renowned expert Aakash Chopra believes that the Prithvi Shaw - Virender Sehwag comparisons are flawed, and feels that people are often thrusting false narratives to make a case against the youngster. Chopra also believes people are subconsciously wanting Shaw to fail for self-satisfaction.
An inherent characteristic that lives within every sport-watcher is the tendency to invariably compare an up-and-coming talent to a yesteryear legend, and so it was of little surprise that young Prithvi Shaw was instantaneously compared to Virender Sehwag within moments of his debut. Shaw’s explosive nature, his - lack of - footwork and his stroke-making were all akin to the Nawab of Najafgarh and so, naturally, the uncanny similarity got fans excited. But it has taken only a handful of Tests for the same admirers to turn on Shaw, who after his twin failures in Adelaide is being termed an imposter who never really was the ‘next Sehwag’.
However, in this time of turmoil for the youngster, Sehwag’s former opening partner Aakash Chopra has rushed to his defence. Chopra, in his ESPNCricinfo column, condemned people labelling the 21-year-old a ‘flat-track bully’ and pointed out how even Sehwag had his own troubles, and enjoyed luxuries that Shaw currently doesn’t have.
“Shaw has already scored a fifty in New Zealand (in only two Tests there); Sehwag didn't score a fifty in five Tests in New Zealand. Sehwag's average in England and South Africa (two extremely challenging countries for an opener from the subcontinent to play in) is 27 and 25. respectively. Sehwag has stellar numbers in Australia but that's only one of the four countries that are considered the hardest for a batsman from the subcontinent to succeed in,” Chopra wrote in his ESPNCricinfo column.
“We conveniently highlight or overlook stats to suit our narratives. And let's also acknowledge and not downplay the fact that Sehwag was part of India's strongest batting order ever. Having briefly been a part of it myself, I can tell you that that takes away some of the pressure of failure. This is something a modern Indian opener will know only when he's playing in the subcontinent, and not in South Africa, New Zealand, England or Australia.
“The second thing about the comparisons with Sehwag are that pitches overall were flat in Sehwag's era. The quality of batting coupled with better pitches globally invariably produced numbers to match. And lest you think that I'm undermining Sehwag's greatness or effectiveness, I am simply trying to highlight that comparisons between him and Shaw are flawed. Sehwag failed too, and he looked woefully out of sorts on occasion, but the knives were not out against him every time he nicked the ball or got bowled.”
Shaw was a victim of jokes and memes even prior to the first Test, and social media was filled with “told you so” statements the moment the 21-year-old got dismissed cheaply in both innings. Chopra is of the opinion that there is currently a toxic characteristic within fans where a large portion are keen to see the youngster fail, so they can gloat that their intuition was right.
“The other problem with anyone who doesn't match our profiling is that subconsciously we wait for them to fail, for that vindicates our original belief. Shaw is going through that phase right now. His lack of runs in the IPL this year, and more importantly, the mode of his dismissals (the ball sneaked through his defences quite often) got everyone talking again,” Chopra said.
Despite his blistering start to Test cricket, Shaw looks set to be dropped for the all-important Boxing Day clash at the MCG.