Injury setback behind him, Prithvi Shaw ready to take IPL by storm
After a successful start to his Test career, Prithvi Shaw is hungry to return. © Getty

Prithvi Shaw has been on quite a ride since his India debut in October against West Indies. A century on debut followed by a fifty in the next helped Shaw, at the age of 19, gain Virat Kohli’s vote of confidence ahead of the Australia tour. Picked for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Shaw began the tour with a flourishing 66 against the Cricket Australia XI and was tipped to play as India’s first-choice opener in Adelaide.

Everything seemed to be heading well for the India’s young batting sensation before an ankle injury during the practice game put a screeching halt to Shaw’s momentum. He was ruled out of the first Test, and subsequently the series. To make matters worse, rumours of his indiscipline began to emerge and there were concerns over Shaw’s focus during his rehabilitation.

Unperturbed, Shaw aligned his focus on the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy with an aim of returning to competitive cricket with a bang, but an aggregate of 134 runs from eight matches put paid to his ambitions. From a position of a potentially skyrocketing into India’s World Cup squad, Shaw, instead, with the IPL in mind, was left to start over.

Comebacks can be tough, even more so when the tournament is as gruelling as the IPL, and for a fiercely-determined Shaw, the coming season is a golden opportunity to re-attain the level he is known to perform at.

“It was a tough time, being away with injury. The lay-off was slightly longer than I had expected but I was glad to have returned in time for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy,” Shaw told CricketCountry in Delhi over the weekend. “The results weren’t what I was expecting, but what it did to me was give me the confidence of being injury free. The 71 I scored against Goa felt really nice, and even though I would have wanted to get a few more big scores, I was pretty content with the progress I made.

Prithvi Shaw had to be carried off the field after twisting his left ankle at the SCG.
Shaw had to be carried off the field after twisting his left ankle at the SCG. (Image: Twitter)

“I always believe that in case of an injury lay-off, it’s always better start where you came from so I believe this was a very crucial time for me. [I] got back to the domestic level, trying to hit some balls over there. Now it’s the IPL so I’m hoping for the best. Last year, I couldn’t do as well as I’d have liked to, so this year I’m really looking forward to making it count.”

What makes Shaw’s comeback slightly stiffer is that he is representing a franchise many termed “perennial underachievers”. The rechristened Delhi Capitals, formerly the Delhi Daredevils, is the only IPL team from the first batch to have never reached the final. In fact, the Capitals have bagged the wooden spoon four times, more than any other franchise in the history of the IPL. (READ: Rechristened Delhi hope for ‘Capital’ gains)

In his IPL debut last year, Shaw managed just 245 runs from nine matches. However, likely to open the innings this season, Shaw feels the Capitals have a “perfect side”.

“It all looks pretty perfect to me. In batting, Shikkhi bhai (Shikhar Dhawan) is back and he is going to be a key player for us. With [Mohammad] Kaif sir’s inputs, we promise to become a better fielding unit.” he said. “We had done a good job last year with the ball. It’s going to be a very crucial year for us and we are really looking forward to it. Everyone knows their role and is quite mature to understand what their job is. If you talk about responsibility then I think everyone is up for it.”

Shaw opened on the extent of the injury and how the two-month long lay-off affected him. When Shaw twisted his ankle in Sydney, he was ruled out of the first two Tests, but remained in contention for if not the third, then the final Test at the SCG. But instead, he was sent back. That is when Shaw’s focus was questioned and the chirping took place. Dispelling those murmurs, Shaw explained how the injury was actually worse than it seemed.

The Syed Mushtaq Ali didn't bring Shaw big runs but it gave him confidence.
The Syed Mushtaq Ali didn’t bring Shaw big runs but it gave him confidence. © IANS

“I was progressing well till a point. I felt that I would be able to play by the time the third Test began in Melbourne. But then I realised that the speed at which my ankle was recovering wasn’t the same,” he said. “The rate at which I was getting better dipped and I couldn’t take that final jump which could have made me available to play the final Test. That’s when the physio took a call and I was sent to the NCA.

“I was upset. I couldn’t play but these things happen. When I came to Bangalore and did my rehab, I was feeling good. My ankle was getting better – the way I was moving, training. I was getting there. When I went to Bangalore after two months of training, I felt I was ready. We won the Australia Tests so that was pretty big.

“Everything was perfect over there (NCA). I did a lot of sessions there. I was working to get fit before Mushtaq Ali T20 as I wanted to get used to the T20 format and then go to the IPL. That’s how I had planned my two months of rehab. Trainers and physio were very committed.”

The one thing about the injury which Shaw rues the most is its timing. A successful series in Australia could have paved the way for a potential World Cup berth, but with April 23 being the deadline for squad announcements, Shaw looks pretty much out of it. A stellar season with Delhi Capitals might give him a chance to sneak it. Or not.

Rest assured, when the time comes, Shaw is up for the task, even if it requires him to sacrifice his opener’s slot.

“I don’t have to think that much. I will only focus on what I can do and if that opens up avenues well and good. Right now, my mindset is to do the job for Delhi Capitals,” he said.

“For India, it is all about whatever number they want me to bat and not the other way around. When I open the innings in limited-overs, my mindset is different. Two men outside the 30-yard circle, Powerplay overs but when I am going down the order, it will obviously change. I watch a lot of experienced players. I watch if I go at No 5, what will I do there. It’s all about mindset, how you approach that situation. It’s about what they want.”