Prithvi Shaw is set to make his maiden entry into the Test arena when India face West Indies in the first of the two Tests at Rajkot on Thursday. @ IANS
Prithvi Shaw is set to make his maiden entry into the Test arena when India face West Indies in the first of the two Tests at Rajkot on Thursday. @ IANS

Rajkot will hold a special place in the heart of Mumbai’s teenage prodigy Prithvi Shaw, who at 18 years and 328 days, is set to make his maiden entry into the Test arena when India face West Indies in the first of the two Tests at Rajkot on Thursday. Apart from making his Test entry, Rajkot was also the same venue where Shaw made his first-class debut for Mumbai in January 2017.

Records and runs aside for which Shaw has ticked almost all the boxes, what makes this young exciting talent a vital prospect in India’s batting scheme of things, is his mentality.

“He’s a fearless cricketer. He loves opening and his mindset is very aggressive when he goes out to bat. It does not matter how the pitch is, who the bowler is or what is he bowling, Shaw just goes out in the middle and expresses himself. He’s not afraid of failures. This is something that stands out,” Aditya Tare, who was the Mumbai skipper when Shaw made his debut, told Cricket Country on Wednesday.

Battling nerves and calming down the tension is something every cricketer goes through, not in the case of Shaw, who likes to take on the situation head on.

“There was an incident [during the 2017 Ranji semi-final vs Tamil Nadu] where he got out in the first over in the first innings [Shaw departed for 4]. In the second innings, we had to chase 250-odd runs. Tamil Nadu had started with a left-arm spinner and we had a left-handed opener as well. So, Shaw and Praful Waghela, who’s a left-hander, were our openers. When Shaw got out, I told Praful that he should have taken the strike because it was Shaw’s first game. Praful said that Shaw insisted he wanted to take the strike,” Tare said.

“In the second innings, after I had a word with Praful, I thought he would have taken strike, but again Shaw was adamant that irrespective of whether he failed or not, he just wanted to face the first ball. He did not even bother whether the left-arm spinner was bowling or not. He didn’t really care. I liked that attitude of his where even though he failed in the first innings, he was not afraid of going on and taking the strike in the second innings,” he said.

Shaw top scored with a match-winning knock of 120 as Mumbai thrashed Tamil Nadu by six wickets. “That talks a lot about his attitude,” Tare, currently playing for Mumbai in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, albeit not as a skipper, said.

Shaw’s call to play in Tests came at the right time, according to former India wicketkeeper-batsman Chandrakant Pandit, who was the coach of Mumbai in Shaw’s debut Ranji match.

“The way he has batted [in the past six to eight months] itself has proved that he is capable of batting at the highest level of cricket. It’s the right time to get this opportunity. He’s an extraordinary talent and he’s always been playing with a fearless approach. He always thinks about dominating the opposition and he’s shown that consistency. That innings he played on his debut at Rajkot will be fresh in his mind when he steps out tomorrow,” Pandit said.

However, Pandit is wary that should Shaw underperform on Thursday, he must be given a longer rope. “It’s important he gets a start, and specially at the higher level, that start is very important. He should try to back his strength, and even if he doesn’t perform according to expectations, he should be given more opportunities. His strength is his attacking mentality,” he said.

On the cusp of an India debut, Pandit advised Shaw to keep the form going and runs will follow. “He should not be worried about a debut. I’m sure that boy has a solid temperament. He’s a very strong-minded cricketer which I saw when he made his debut. I remember he returning with a match-winning knock after failing in the first innings, so I want him to continue with the same mentality,” he said.