“I told myself all this talent is fine but it’s of no use if I don’t work hard.”
Prithvi Shaw has amassed 754 runs for Mumbai in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy – including four centuries in seven innings – at an average of 188.50. His runs, which have come at the staggering strike rate of 134.88, include innings of 227*, 185* and 165. On the way, Shaw set a new record for most runs in a Vijay Hazare season, passing Mayank Agarwal’s mark of 723 runs in 2017-18.
These highs have followed the bitterest of lows for Shaw, who was dropped from India’s Test XI after making 0 and 4 in the first Test of their tour of Australia, getting dismissed in similar manner in both innings, bowled through the gap between bat and pad.
Speaking to the The Indian Express, Shaw recalled his experience in Australia, and his frame of mind after getting dropped, which swung between despair at his own situation and happiness at the success of his team-mates, who went on to pull off a 2-1 series win.
“I was in complete tension when I was dropped after the first Test,” Shaw said. “I got a feeling like I was worthless though I was happy that the team was doing well. I said to myself, ‘I need to pull up my socks’. There is a saying, ‘hard work beats talent’. I told myself all this talent is fine but it’s of no use if I don’t work hard.
“It was the saddest day of my life (when he was dropped). I went to my room and broke down. I felt like something wrong was happening. I needed answers quickly.”
A lot of experts pointed to Shaw’s high, wide backlift as the reason for his problem with the incoming ball, but this backlift had been part of his technique all through his career, even when he was scoring heavily. The problem, he realised when he worked with India coach Ravi Shastri and batting coach Vikram Rathour, lay elsewhere.
“Ravi sir and Vikram sir made me realise where I was going wrong,” Shaw said. “I had to find a solution. Just go back to the nets and fix it. There were small mistakes that I was making. Those two innings made me look bad. My backlift was the same but my bat was coming down slightly away from my body. There was an issue with the initial movement. I was in a fixed position. I needed to keep my bat closer to my body, which I wasn’t doing.”
When he returned to India, Sachin Tendulkar identified the same issue with his game. Shaw reckons that the issue may have crept in because he went straight from the IPL in the UAE to the Test series in Australia.
“My mind was messed up,” Shaw said. “My bat was coming down from the gully area, but that’s how I have scored runs all my life,” he said.
“I met Sachin sir after I came back. He said don’t make too many changes and to just play as close to the body as I could. I was late on the ball. So during the entire Australia tour, I worked on that part. Maybe it was because I had gone to Australia after playing in Dubai (IPL).”
While Shaw worked on his game at the nets, Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma settled in nicely at the top of the order – they have been India’s opening combination for their last six Test matches, including all four Tests of the home series against England.
Shaw wasn’t picked for the England series, and he approached the Vijay Hazare Trophy with a single-minded desire for runs. Lots of them.
“I wanted to get big-daddy runs,” he said. “The other day I had back pain during the quarterfinals and our physio and team management asked me to return to the dressing room, I said ‘no’. They gave me a medicine and I continued batting. My focus was to remain unbeaten. I’m trying to handle situations better when I am batting.”
As reassuring as his current run of form might be, Shaw says he won’t be satisfied until he’s back in India colours.
“Even now I feel everything is not fine till I am back in the Indian team,” he said. “Whenever I get a chance, I want to grab it. I knew that I wouldn’t be getting a chance against England and I took it in my stride. It is me who has to be blamed.”