At 20 and playing in just his third Test match, these are still early days in Prithvi Shaw’s international career. But seeing his batting on Sunday afternoon at the Basin Reserve, one thing is crystal clear — the opener has not rectified some of the glaring errors he had committed that lead to his early exit on Day 1. When he walked out to bat today, it looked as if he had a one-track agenda: Attack from the first delivery.
Considering the conditions that were on offer, with New Zealand’s potent seam attack and the mountain of deficit that India were staring at, such a method was always fraught with danger. The inherent lack of footwork and playing away from the body were some of his travails in the first innings. Back then, Shaw was cleaned up by a peach of an out-swinger from Tim Southee. It was a delivery that was asking to be driven, but the 2018 U-19 World Cup-winning captain remained rooted to the crease, as a result of which, he got squared up and was dismissed for 16. He unfurled a couple of boundaries, but by and large, the Mumbaikar looked unsettled.
All these teething issues came to the fore today. First-up, Southee troubled him with a vicious outswinger, one that dipped in late. Yet again, it was Shaw’s indecisive footwork that got him into an awkward position. And just like in the first innings, he unfurled a couple of boundaries, but hardly looked in control — playing loosely and hitting uppishly through the covers. In essence, Shaw lacked the compactness of his partner Mayank Agarwal, who was far more confident in his stroke-play and resolute in defence.
Not surprisingly, Shaw’s end came soon. Southee may have tormented him the most. But it was Trent Boult, his opening bowling partner, who eventually accounted him. The dismissal was orchestrated by clever field placements and the typical out-of-the-box thinking. Boult decided to come round the wicket and target him with a barrage of short-pitched deliveries. The change of plan proved to be a masterstroke. Boult’s short-pitched stuff surprised Shaw, who ended up fending it tepidly to Tom Latham at backward square leg. Shaw scored 14 and his vigil lasted only 30 deliveries.
It’s been a tough initiation back into international cricket for Shaw. Going forward, he must realise that Test cricket is not IPL, where you can just cream boundaries at will. If he harbours hopes of succeeding in this format, Shaw needs to tighten his game, be more judicious in his shot selection and work on his footwork. In such a scenario, there’s no harm in trying out Shaw’s U-19 World Cup team-mate Shubman Gill as an opener for the next game in Christchurch. Don’t go by Gill’s low scores in the practice game in Hamilton. He is a far more organised and technically correct player than Shaw.
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