Prithvi Shaw admits to have been a bit hard done by the early setbacks in his international career, but the India opener never felt he ever crossed the line or got carried away in any form or manner, contrary to what several reports suggested. After a stellar Test debut for India against West Indies in October of 2018, Shaw injured his ankle in Australia ahead of the 2018-19 Border-Gavaskar Trophy. That is when reports of Shaw’s lifestyle and disciplinary issues messing with his career surfaced.

In fact, the matter had reached such a boiling point, that Shaw reportedly needed an intervention of sports from Sachin Tendulkar to help him gain back focus. Shaw had dismissed the reports, calling them baseless, but maintains that there were certain things beyond his control.

“Winning the U-19 WC and then hitting a century on my Test debut were really big moments for me, but I don’t think I got carried away. Some things like the doping ban were within my control, but things like the unfortunate ankle injury [suffered in 2018 in Australia] were not in my control. I have realised that I cannot keep 100 percent people happy all the time,” Shaw told Times of India.

“However, I know that criticism is also a part and parcel of life. The idea is to take constructive criticism positively and keep on improving. 2019 wasn’t that great, but there’s always a silver lining to things. I just want to respond to all of that with my bat. Difficult times are a test of one’s character as well. I’m thankful that I have my father, close friends and my management agency, Baseline Ventures, which has stood by me through thick and thin.”

Last year, Shaw’s image took another beating when he was handed an eight-month suspension by the BCCI for failing a doping test as he “inadvertently ingested a prohibited substance [terbutaline], which can commonly be found in cough syrups”. Shaw’s ban was backdated to March 16, despite the fact he was playing for the Delhi Capitals in the Indian Premier League until May 8.

He returned to action during the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy racking up impressive scores, which paved the way for his India recall, but Shaw feels the road to redemption has come with its own set of lessons.

“You have to be careful about what you consume. Even a simple drug like paracetamol. This is for all the young cricketers out there who aren’t aware about these things. Even if you take a small medicine, you must get it approved with your doctor or the BCCI doctors. It’s better to ask the doctors about the banned substances and take necessary precautions so that you don’t get into trouble,” Shaw added.

“Like in my case, I had a cough syrup which I didn’t know was a banned substance. I have learnt a lesson from this and will not repeat it. Even if I am having a basic medicine, I run that through the BCCI doctors to ensure that there are no banned substances in it. Time away from cricket was a difficult period for me. It was a torture. It should not happen to anyone.”

Just when Shaw seemed to be once again on his way back up the ladder, he sustained a shoulder injury putting his tour of New Zealand in jeopardy. But the 20-year-old made a quick and timely recovery to make India’s ODI and Test squads and showed sparks of brilliance. In ODIs, he showing promise in each innings before getting out, and struck a fluent half-century in the second Test.

“In New Zealand, there were a lot of short balls directed at us. I was prepared for it, as a lot of bowlers have bowled short-pitched balls at me. I know that in the future too, there will be a lot of short balls bowled at me. The strongest part of my game is my back foot, which helped me play short deliveries. However, sometimes, it does happen that even though it is your favourite area, you tend to get out there. I can do a bit better by leaving the short balls. On this tour, I was in two minds about whether to leave them or play at them. Next time, if a short ball comes, I will play it with an uncluttered mind,” he said.

“I like to play shots at the start as the field is up that time. That’s my natural game. I am the kind of player who will try to dominate the bowlers as soon as possible and so I like to play my shots. I think it’s good for the team as well that I play my natural game. It keeps the scoreboard ticking and that’s the important thing when you’re playing outside the country. There will be wickets on which you won’t get that many runs in the first 5-6 overs. But in those overs, if you try and play your natural game and keep the scoreboard ticking, except leaving the balls which are outside the off stump, then you feel less pressure. Even if I am playing my first ball, and it happens to be a loose one, I will try and put that away for a boundary. That makes me feel confident and takes all the pressure out of me.”