Prithvi Shaw: Is India comeback too distant a dream for the opener?

Once hailed as a prodigious talent, the Mumbaikar is back after a long injury lay-off

Shaw in action against Bengal at Eden Gardens (photo: CAB Media)
Shaw in action against Bengal at Eden Gardens (photo: CAB Media)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Can Prithvi Shaw, once touted as the next big thing in Indian cricket, ever make his way back into the national squad? Never say never, but it won’t be easy, going by what one witnessed on his return to competitive cricket from a knee injury in the Ranji Trophy on Friday.

The 24-year-old, who has had a chequered career ever since bursting upon the international cricket scene with a Test century on debut, cracked a few delightful boundaries during his innings of 35 runs off 42 balls for Mumbai against Bengal at a forlorn Eden Gardens. However, he looked in urgent need to shed quite a few kilos and get back to his prolific best to press a claim along with the likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal or Ruturaj Gaekwad, who have gone miles ahead.

The latest setback to Shaw's career came in the form of a knee injury during his County stint with Northamptonshire in August 2023. He underwent surgery in London, followed by three months of rehabilitation, with the National Cricket Academy ruling him fit almost at the eleventh hour ahead of the Bengal game.    

From a suspended ban for substance abuse to a rash of injuries, Shaw has been no stranger to roadblocks in his career. However, public perception about him nosedived in early 2023 when he was involved in a bar room brawl with Sapna Gill, a social media influencer.

His county stint came to an abrupt halt with the injury, and ahead of the IPL release and retention list of players in November, there were strong rumours that Delhi Capitals may release him.

Shaw’s woeful form in IPL 2023, where he scored 106 runs in eight matches at an average of 13.25, did not help matters. However, Capitals chose to go with him again, and IPL 2024 may actually provide him a lifeline if he harbours any hopes of sneaking in among the probables for the T20 World Cup in five months.

It’s been close to three years since Shaw last featured for India, during a tour of Sri Lanka in July 2021, and was last part of the squad for the home T20Is against New Zealand in 2022.

Before picking up his injury in the UK, Shaw was actually striking the ball well and was the highest run-getter in England’s domestic one-day competition, having hit 429 runs in only four innings, including a record-breaking 244 off 153 balls against Somerset.

A look back at Shaw's records shows a vast amount of unfulfilled potential since he led India to the Under-19 World Cup triumph in 2018, where a certain Shubman Gill was among his teammates. He averages 42.37 in the longest format of the game, with the help of the debut century against the West Indies, and two half-centuries. His first-class record makes for much better reading, as he has accumulated 3,802 runs at an average of 50.02, including 12 centuries and 16 half-centuries.

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