Prithvi Shaw’s tale is entwined with that of Mumbai. Everything the city is known for has played its part in his rise: The local train, a father who sacrificed to push the son’s dream, kind acts from strangers, help from cricket tragics in maidans — and, above all, a fierce individualistic drive to compete. Cricket runs through Mumbai’s bloodstream. In a city that has reconstructed and reimagined itself so often, its cricketing world has almost stood still.
The maidans still spill over with earnest cricket coaches sipping tea from tiny plastic cups and agonising over the boys’ square-cuts. It’s in this atmosphere that Shaw found himself growing. Where else can you find yourself playing on the same pitch where Sachin Tendulkar once played as a kid? Where else are you going to tread on grass trampled by a young Sunil Gavaskar? Gavaskar once wrote a letter to young Tendulkar to not fret over the fact that he wasn’t picked for a junior team. Tendulkar once gave away a trophy to a delirious Shaw. The lineage and connection has continued in this city.
Shaw’s journey has been so well documented that potential revelations about the debutant seem like tired trivia. How he would travel on his father Pankaj’s shoulder in crowded trains. How people would gather when news spread that he was batting in the municipality ground in Virar. His father gave up his small garment business for three years to focus on his son’s cricket, a benevolent politician helped them find a house in the city so that the extra time could be spent on training. He was so short that when he was eight or nine and playing in A division cricket, he would be invariably bounced — that’s where his penchant for cut shots developed. A game built on awareness of his diminutive stature. Every night, for 10 minutes before sleep takes over, he analyses his game. Cricket consumes Shaw’s life. It’s scary in some respects but also beautiful in a way most can never understand.