Prithvi Shaw, India’s newest teenage sensation, turned 19 last month. Having already made a Test century on his debut, he is currently preparing himself for the upcoming Australia tour which begins in December and which will be his toughest yet as a batsman. The young right-hander rose to prominence when, as a 14-year-old, he smashed 546 of 330 balls including 85 fours and five sixes in the Harris Shield, Mumbai in 2013, breaking the record for the highest score in school cricket.
It was January 1966 when one morning the newspaper headline ran thus, “A bolt from the blue — Shastri dies in Tashkent”; India had lost its second Prime Minister who was out in the then USSR to sign a peace agreement with Pakistan after the 1965 operations. The Indian political leadership seemed to have been left in a state of disarray and confusion. The immediate question that cropped up was that after Nehru it was Shastri but who after Shastri?
However, the regime of Indira Gandhi that followed that of Lal Bahadur Shastri was one of India’s nascent emergence as a world power and one of national and international political guile to which the world was introduced, perhaps, for the first time.
The present Indian cricket scenario has been quite similar to the Indian political scenario of the 1960s. For two decades Indian spectators at the cricket field had been chanting one name with the greatest of gusto and enthusiasm, that of Sachin Tendulkar. His retirement left cricket fans wondering as to whether they would ever, in their lifetime, see a batsman so versatile and entertaining. The wait was short-lived as the arrival of Virat Kohli at the centrestage has almost pushed the Tendulkar era into oblivion. At the same time one now wonders whether one has seen in Virat Kohli the ultimate batting talent of cricket. However, if Virat himself is to be believed, coming up on the horizon is a new star to whom Virat extended the ultimate accolade when he said, “When we were of his age, we did not possess even one tenth the talent.” The new rising star is none other than a teenager from Mumbai named Prithvi Shaw.
This October, Prithvi walked into the men’s international world with credentials that definitely called for respect but the manner in which he announced his arrival was something that every cricket fan had expected in the least. I remember our school headmaster giving us live examples when the matter was about conveying the essence of certain idioms. Prithvi Shaw’s 90 minute debut century would go well to drive home the meaning of the idiom, “To take the bull by the horn.” In the process of reaching his three-figure-innings at Rajkot, not only did Prithvi become the second youngest Indian cricketer to score a century but also the youngest-ever Indian cricketer to score a century on debut. More amazing was the manner in which he bullied the pace bullies of the West Indies and sent them on a leather hunt.
Some self-styled critics have tried to rob the magnitude of Shaw’s innings by stating that he was fortunate to have made his debut against the West Indies; a poor criticism from those who have a rather lopsided view about the entire game. In its present state the current West Indian team is not even a shade of their once-world-championship might but the decline has been more as a consequence of their inept batting rather than any gross dissemination of their bowling talent; even today the West Indian bowling, with some of its bowlers sending down deliveries at around 90 miles per hour, requires some serious batting talent to deal with the perpetual volley of deliveries.