'I hope he has learnt his lesson': Former India coach Gaekwad feels it's important for Prithvi Shaw to remain 'grounded'

  • Former India coach Anshuman Gaekwad spoke about the importance of the Sri Lanka series for Prithvi Shaw and touched upon the circumstances that may have played a role in the youngster witnessing a roller-coaster ride.
Prithvi Shaw is a key part of India's squad in Sri Lanka. (Getty Images)
Prithvi Shaw is a key part of India's squad in Sri Lanka. (Getty Images)
Updated on Jul 10, 2021 11:10 AM IST
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By Aditya Bhattacharya, New Delhi

The Indian team is gearing up for the Sri Lanka series, and despite the presence of five uncapped cricketers in the squad, if there is one player who will be the cynosure of all eyes, it is Prithvi Shaw. The young and promising batsman has gone through plenty of ups and down in his young career and after being dropped from the squad in Australia, this is the first time that the batsman has returned to the fold.

Shaw has been rewarded for a stellar show in 2021, having become the first man to score over 800 runs in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, and looking like a million bucks in the IPL. Shaw tallied 308 runs for the Delhi Capitals from just eight matches with three half-centuries, including slamming six fours in an over, when he took on Shivam Mavi of Kolkata Knight Riders. And with a week to go for the first ODI in Colombo, Shaw is the obvious first-choice to open the innings with Shikhar Dhawan.

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The series holds ample significance for Shaw, who is among many looking to make it to India's T20 World Cup squad. This could be the perfect culmination of the see-saw ride Shaw has been through in the last three years. From starting off with a bang, to facing injury issues, to getting suspended to battling woeful form to finally hitting purple patch, the series against SL could be a make-or-break deal for the youngster.

In the first-half of last year, reports of Shaw facing disciplinary issues emerged, and it was during this point that the great Sachin Tendulkar came into the picture and mentored him, as Shaw negotiated a very precarious phase of life during which nascent careers can go southbound. Weighing in on the same, former India coach Anshuman Gaekwad, in a chat with Hindustan Times, spoke about the importance of this series for Shaw and touched upon the circumstances that may have played a role in the youngster witnessing a roller-coaster ride.

"It's going to be very important for him. He's a brilliant player, who's got a lot of runs. He started off with flying colours. We thought 'here is a boy who had come here to stay'. But then he lost it. And why did he lose it? It could be confidence, it could be overconfidence, or arrogance. These are the reasons for which a player has a downfall. Being grounded is very, very important. I've seen the greatest of players - talk about Tendulkar, Dravid, Vishwanath. They were all grounded, and never put their collars up or said 'I'm so and so'," Gaekwad said.

"All these guys played for long - Laxman, Sourav, Azhar. All of them. Of course, being young these things happen but I'm sure he's learnt his lesson. He has to grow up, and I'm sure he has. Some players probably improve from the experience of watching others, while some want to do it themselves. They want to experience it themselves, and then improve, so I hope he has learnt his lesson. Also, the thing with him is that he's got time with him. He's got tremendous potential and promise, so the sky's the limit."

Shaw's blazing start and injury setback

Shaw is only 21, yet he may sometimes feel a decade older given what he has been through. From creating waves in the junior circuit to becoming a domestic behemoth, Shaw realised his dream of playing for India when he earned his maiden Test cap in 2018. He lit up the occasion by scoring a century on debut, becoming the second Indian to do so. Shaw emerged as one of India's breakout stars that year, and with the big test of Australia ahead, great things were expected from the youngster.

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However, those plans came to a screeching halt. During India's warm-up game in Sydney, Shaw twisted his ankle, which ended his Australia dreams. It triggered a downward spiral for the youngster even before his career could take off. Shaw spent the next couple of months recovering from the injury, after which he set his eyes on the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. But he endured a string of low scores there, averaging a lowly 16.75 in eight innings before being left out of the Super League stage.

Doping Ban and battling form

The IPL was the bumper ticket for IPL to present a case for himself in India's World Cup squad, but perhaps it was a tad late. Despite scoring 353 runs for Delhi Capitals, Shaw, on expected lines, was not picked for England. But that was just the beginning of what would prove to be perhaps the most haunting 10 months of Shaw's career. A shoulder injury to Shaw ruled him out of the one-day leg of India A's tour of the Caribbean as he underwent rehab at the NCA. And worse, it was followed by Shaw being slapped with a suspension for doping violation.

Once the ban was lifted, Shaw scored patches of form – a few impressive scores in warm-up and half-century against New Zealand – but was far from being at his belligerent best. The IPL in the UAE last year did not help either, as Shaw registered three ducks. Even as he was picked for the tour of Australia, after the two nightmarish outings against the pink ball in Adelaide, the door seemingly shut on Shaw.

Roaring back with 827 runs in Vijay Hazare Trophy

But what happened thereon is nothing short of inspirational. Shaw went back to his roots, worked closely with Pravin Amre and emerged better than ever, setting the Vijay Hazare Trophy on fire. He peeled off a double century, scoring 227, which broke the record for the highest individual score in List-A cricket, and dazzled with an unbeaten 185 in the semi-final. His rich vein of form continued in the IPL 2021 before it was halted due to Covid-19, but he has the chance to resume from where he had left off and go big against Sri Lanka.

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