He came, He Shaw, He conquered

Posted on November 21, 2013

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A piece on Prithvi Shaw, after his record breaking Harris Shield innings

He stands just a bit over five feet, but 14-year-old Prithvi Shaw stood tall at Azad Maidan on Wednesday. The diminutive teenager, playing for Rizvi Springfield (Bandra), etched himself a name in the hallowed school of Mumbai cricket, with blazing knock of 546 in a Harris Shield (Elite division) match against a hapless St. Francis D’Assisi attack.

Prithvi’s stay at the middle, which started on Tuesday, lasted 367 minutes and 330 balls (an astounding strike rate of 165.45) aided by 85 boundaries and five sixes. His team was finally dismissed for 991.

An innings of endurance

An innings of endurance

In the process, Prithvi became the highest scorer in the prestigious 117-year-old tournament. He surpassed former teammate Arman Jaffer’s record of 473, set earlier this year. The ninth-standard student also broke a 70-year-old record held to become highest scorer in India eclipsing the 515 made by Dadabhoy Havewala for BB and CI Railway vs St. Xavier’s College in Bombay during  the 1933-34 season. He also became third Indian player to score above 500 after Havewala and Chaman Lal (502* for Mehandra College vs Government College, Patiala in 1956-57). In available record books, the innings will go down as the third highest individual score after AEJ Collins’ 628* in a competitive match in England in 1899 and CJ Eady’s 566 in in 1901.

“I had no idea about the records and was not chasing any. I was the captain of the side and it was my responsibility to lead from the front by scoring runs that was my only aim” said Prithvi after his innings.

“I was told to play my natural game and not gift my wicket away by the coach. They knew if I got settled I would score big. There was no pressure on me and my mind was free. St.Francis’ attack was good and I had to play the ball by the merit. I have given away a few chances but they were difficult ones and not taken,” he said.

Prithvi is level-headed, he picks his words wisely. When asked about his chances to play for India he says, “There is still a long way to go and I don’t want to think about that now. I am just focused on playing the game now and looking at it step by step.”

This is not Prithvi’s first brush with fame, but his biggest yet. Until recently, he scored a century in the city’s revamped senior A Division league against Muslim United, playing for Parel SC. He is also the skipper of Mumbai’s under-16 side and many a time won matches for his school.

Shaw in action.

Shaw in action.

He took to cricket at the tender age of four. His father Pankaj Shaw, on the advice of a friend, enrolled him to a local cricket club in their neighbourhood in Virar. Prithvi’s days used to start at 4:30 am to catch the 6:10 fast to Churchgate, if he missed that it would become an arduous task for him travelling lugging his kitbag around.

Seeing the troubles his child faced, Pankaj moved to Santa Cruz to get rid of a major fatigue concern of travelling long distances in jam-packed local trains. But to ensure that Prithvi gets the best exposure he was admitted into Rizvi Springfield and ever since it has been a long road to taste success.

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By the end of Prithvi Shaw’s whirlwind innings, St. Francis D’Assisi were a tired bunch but it was not the end. Rizvi Springfield (Bandra) did not declare, but were eventually dismissed for a mammoth 991, the fourth-highest team total across all formats including Test cricket. But it did not matter, the spotlight was on Prithvi Shaw, sporting the cap of his idol Sachin Tendulkar’s brand that read ‘SRT Forever’.

Scores of TV units huddled, on an otherwise normal day, at the Baronet CC pitch, they all wanted to interview the record-breaker. But amidst all the hysteria, on the sidelines and way from the media glare, leaning on the boundary wall of Azad Maidan stood Pankaj.

His father is everything for Prithvi, who lost his mother due to asthma just around the time he started playing cricket. And for Pankaj, his only searing desire is to see Prithvi shine on the field.

“It was very difficult seeing him travel from Virar every day, and his happiness is my only concern so we moved to Santa Cruz. His routine is figured out now and from my side I try ensure he does not miss anything,” said Pankaj with a hint of pride.

Prithvi’s day now starts at 7:00 am, and attends school from 8:30 till 2:30pm. His three-hour gruelling practice session at MIG cricket club gets underway at 3:30pm. After that it is time to warm down, and then start tuitions from eight.

Pankaj is a man of small means, he runs a small readymade garment business in Santa Cruz, the same he used to do in Virar. As you speak to him, a Bengali accent cannot be missed.

But Prithvi’s English is crisp, and if anything, it has some traces of a British accent; the aftermath of a stint in Gloucestershire earlier this year, thanks to former India cricketer Nilesh Kulkarni and Julian Wood, a former English county player.

“My father ensures I get all the support I need. His motivation helps me in a big way on the field. He takes off the pressure for me,” said Prithvi.

He is not among the brightest in academics, but that does not worry Pankaj. “He is an average student and does well, that is enough for me, cricket is the priority,” said Pankaj.

Apart from improvements in his game, the trip to England also gave life lessons for Prithvi. “I had to cook myself, because you didn’t get Indian food easily there,” he said.

But on Wednesday night, the kitchen at the Shaw household will not be disturbed. The dinner menu was already decided in the afternoon. It is going be Prithvi’s favourite: Chicken in Chinese style.

A modified version of this piece appeared in Hindustan Times, November 21.

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Posted in: Cricket, Sports