Three months after rolling over his ankle in Australia and forced not just miss the Test series but unable to bat even in training, Prithvi Shaw has begun to bat in the nets. His next target is to play for Mumbai in the forthcoming T20 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
India achieved a historic series triumph in Australia and though their regular openers KL Rahul and Murali Vijay struggled, Mayank Agarwal came up with eye-catching knocks in the two Tests he played. Shaw was being talked up as the next prolific opener before that Test series and he rues the fact that he had to miss such a marquee contest.
“I felt sad as it was a good opportunity for me to play the quality Australian bowling line-up. I was a bit upset. But some things aren’t in your hands. Now I’m looking forward to the Mushtaq Ali tournament to find my touch and gain some confidence back,” Shaw told this newspaper.
Last November, just before the first Test in Adelaide, Shaw twisted his ankle while attempting a catch in a practice match and had to be rushed to a hospital. Initial reports were encouraging though – it was even speculated that he might be ready to play in the second Test – but as the weeks rolled by, Shaw realised he wasn’t going to make it.
The Indian team decided to send him back to undergo a rehabilitation programme at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore. “A few days after the injury, I felt the swelling and pain had reduced and I felt that I will recover normally for the second Test. I had begun to jog as well but I could feel the pain again. The pain was there even though the swelling had reduced,” Shaw said.
He had gone to Australia after slamming a hundred on debut against West Indies and there was an air of expectancy about his performances in Australia before the setback in that practice game at the Sydney Cricket Ground. “My recovery was going fine, after the second Test they were trying for me to get fit but the pain had returned. Then it was decided that I should go to NCA and do my rehab in India instead of travelling with the Indian team.”
There was speculation that he might have to undergo surgery – something he was dreading – but experts later felt that it was not needed. “There were two thoughts – whether I should go for surgery or I should take the normal course to recover. Luckily, there was no need for surgery and it took more than a month for me to be completely fit. I’m at the NCA for the last two months, trying hard to be fit. In the last two months, I went home just once,” Shaw said.
Two days ago, Shaw got the green signal about his fitness from the NCA medical team which meant he was ready to play competitive cricket again. He started to bat in the nets 10 days ago. Shaw was cautious and didn’t want to rush into cricket through India A games; he says he wants to be absolutely ready and fit.
“I started my batting only 10 days ago. The physios were in regular touch with the selectors and they were monitoring my progress. Two days back, they said I am fully fit.”
In his first week at the NCA, Shaw worked on strengthening his upper body in the gym; taking care not to put any load on his legs. “A few weeks ago, I began my lower-body workout.”
Shaw has been looked at as the next big thing from Mumbai cricket for some years now as he went through the cricketing system and progressed through different age-group tournaments.
In February, 2017, even as the hype around him began to grow louder, Rahul Dravid, India’s coach for the junior teams, grounded everyone with his assessment. “He (Shaw) is a talented player but he’s got a long way to go. He has got a lot to learn. None of them are finished products, all are learning along the way. He will get opportunities, he (is) going to have some ups and downs.”
It was Dravid, though, who recommended Shaw to the Mumbai Ranji selectors. The caution has paid off as Shaw’s batting kept improving.
In July 2018, he was drafted into the Indian squad in the middle of the Test series in England. He didn’t get to play but was closely monitored by coach Ravi Shastri, who was seen working on Shaw’s back-foot technique – at times, Shaw’s back leg would move to the leg side, almost outside the leg stump and Shastri focused on that movement.
Later, Shaw made his debut against West Indies at home and started off with a bang before the freak injury sidelined him in Australia.