“All this talent is fine but it’s of no use if I don’t work hard,” Prithvi Shaw had admitted after being dropped mid-series during Team India’s recent tour to Australia. Cut to four months later – and something has definitely changed. The 21-year-old’s improved technique caught the eye of the likes of Sunil Gavaskar during his 38-ball 72 in Delhi Capital’s seven-wicket win over Chennai Super Kings, in Mumbai. Could this new adjustment help reignite his international career?

The failure

The promising Indian opener went through a horrid patch that lasted all of the previous Indian Premier League (IPL) season and continued into the Test series Down Under. He averaged below 18 across 13 IPL matches for DC in 2020, and followed it up with scores of 0 and 4 in India’s loss at Adelaide, amounting to the embarrassing 36-run collapse. 

 

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“Prithvi is a talented player, but at this point of time I feel his hands are moving away from his body,” master blaster Sachin Tendulkar had told the Times of India back then. “So, whenever the ball comes back sharply off the seam there is a possibility that, considering how he has got out, bowlers would continue to hope that they have some chance there.” 

The identification

Tendulkar had pointed out, in particular, at the need to rectify his backlift. The hands needed to be closer to the body; and the back hand needed to come down in the motion of a pendulum not an arc. A fraction of a second here and there, and the ball can find its way to the timber. And in this period, Shaw had made a habit out of getting dismissed bowled or LBW. 

 

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There was also an issue with his footwork; he was going too legside of the ball. But he had started working on his feet under the guidance of Ravi Shastri in 2018. That movement stopped more or less, and last IPL, he tried to correct it further by taking a middle-stump guard and a slightly-open stance, with his back leg on the middle-stump line. But the problem had moved from the feet to the hands by then, according to the Indian Express

The revival

“From Australia when I was dropped I was working from there itself,” Shaw said after DC’s victory on Saturday, and added, “coming back and across early, so I practiced before going to Vijay Hazare with Pravin Amre, and worked on that. I had a good plan before going into that tournament.”

 

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An improved bat swing helped Shaw regain some form in the Vijay Hazare 50-over Trophy in February, a few weeks after returning from Australia. He went on to score more than 800 for Mumbai runs in the tournament – becoming the first ever player to do so in a season. This included six 50-plus knocks, and mammoth scores of 105*, 227*, 185* and 165. 

The road to redemption

On April 10, in DC’s first IPL match of the 2021 season, one particular drive off Shardul Thakur in the powerplay stood out for experts and fans alike. Even Gavaskar pointed out during the live telecast how Shaw’s back elbow was brushing his right hip in the followthrough, protecting his stumps better and maximising the returns. Shaw smashed nine boundaries and three sixes, in a 138-run opening stand with veteran Shikhar Dhawan.

“I don’t want to think about it (being dropped from the Indian side) because it was a disappointing moment for me but I have to move on and if something is wrong with my batting or technique, I have to improve and I am working hard on myself,” Shaw said in the post-match interview. 

 

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This recent performance will be a huge boost for Shaw, who shows sincere potential to replicate his domestic exploits against bowlers of international repute as well. It can also help him recover mentally, after he admitted to having a breakdown in Australia. 

With an eventful cricketing calendar scheduled ahead for Indian cricket, the road to redemption for Shaw – and version 2.0 of his batting technique – should only be considered over if he returns to the national side.