It has been a tough year for the Indian cricket team in the longest form of the game where it came extremely close of scripting two historic overseas series wins but ended up on the wrong side on both the occasions. Lack of practice was held accountable for the 2-1 loss against South Africa earlier this year but scheduling three T20Is, three ODIs and a practice game ahead of the five-match Test series against England didn’t help men in blue’s cause either.
Led by Virat Kohli, the Indian team fought hard but failure to capture crucial moments reflected on the scoreboard and the team is now behind 3-1 with one match to go. While there have been many reasons behind India’s failure on the English soil, the misfiring top-order (especially openers) would top the list.
Shikhar Dhawan who boarded the plane with a golden touch, disappointed on the foreign soil, once again! His highest score in the series was of 44 while his opening partner KL Rahul’s ghastly dismissals have led to serious questions over his ability to perform outside the Indian subcontinent.
To make matters worse, the management gave up on team India’s most consistent opener overseas in the recent times – Murali Vijay – after his pair in the second Test at Edgbaston, Birmingham. In the only match India have won in this series so far, Dhawan and Rahul had added 60 for the first wicket in both the innings. Those were the two occasions when India crossed the 300-run mark.
Things may not have gone the way Indian team would have wanted but they have certainly opened a door of opportunity that may lead to a better future. The result of the Oval Test might be immaterial to the series but to India, it provides a great chance of trying out 18-year-old Prithvi Shaw who has witnessed a rapid rise in the last couple of years and looks ready for the big stage even at a young age.
India’s next big assignment in Tests would be a four-match Test series against Australia on its soil in December this year. Before that, the team plays only three Tests – one against England and two against Jason Holder’s West Indies. With the latter scheduled to take place in India, the final Test against England is the only chance to test Prithvi in overseas conditions. Also, it would give him a chance to ‘ease’ into the system and not directly face the heat down under.
A 14-match-old Prithvi Shaw has an incredible first-class record where he has scored 1418 runs at an impressive average of 56.72. However, it is the other two columns of strike rate and 100s that should have your attention. The youngster has a strike rate of over 76 in the longer format which means he gets his runs quickly and has the ability to change the course of the match in just one session.
Also, seven centuries in 14 games are enough to show that Prithvi Shaw likes to bat long and has a knack for converting starts into big scores – a trait Indian openers are lacking at the moment.
Yes, the technique is a big problem. When on song, Shaw seems like a magician and is a treat to watch but on his day, can even make a tailender look more stylish. But, if the technique is all you needed to succeed, Virender Sehwag and Mahendra Singh Dhoni would have never scored thousands of runs.
Shaw has an impeccable hand-eye coordination like Sehwag and has worked on his batting under an excellent mentor Rahul Dravid at India Under-19 and India A. The lack of technique hasn’t reflected in the performances so far. Shaw made two List A centuries in India A’s tour of England, and also a 188 against West Indies A in a first-class match, apart from 62 against an England Lions attack that had Sam Curran and Chris Woakes.
There is every possibility that the youngster might fail, but there is nothing to lose. However, if he succeeds, it would be a big win for India in an otherwise disappointing year.