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India v New Zealand

Prithvi Shaw is ready to take his rightful place atop India’s T20I batting order

Prithvi Shaw India
Aadya Sharma by Aadya Sharma
@Aadya_Wisden 3 minute read

Two days after he smashed a 383-ball 379 in the Ranji Trophy, Prithvi Shaw earned his first call-up to the India team in a year and a half. It took some time, but Shaw is finally, and rightfully, back in the T20I set-up, writes Aadya Sharma.

On Friday night, Prithvi Shaw reposted a series of congratulatory messages on his Instagram Story, now a reliable way to keep a tab on cricketers and their lives. There was a happy selfie somewhere too, a change from Shaw’s usual stories over the last few months; subtle, emotional hints – some would say – suggesting the pain of being left out of the India team, again and again.

Shaw is just 23, but has been closely followed in Indian cricketing circles for about a decade now. From child prodigy to teenage sensation, initially he climbed the ladder with ease. By 2018, he had installed himself in the India team, but by the end of 2020, that stint had abruptly halted, with questions galore about his technique, temperament, and anything else that could be debated over.


But the runs couldn’t be ignored. In the 2020/21 Vijay Hazare Trophy, Shaw scored more runs than anyone, averaging 165.40, with four centuries, including an unbeaten double ton. In the 2021 IPL, he was at his destructive best, racing to rapid starts in the powerplay and ending seventh on the run-list, his strike rate [159.13] far better than anyone in the top 20. The numbers brought him back into the India side, but for just three ODIs and one T20I, before being kept out, again. Until the New Zealand series, a year and a half later, there were no call-ups. It was difficult to understand why.

The repeated non-selection has bordered on baffling, at times, given how prolific, and destructive, he has been since. Due to his India A commitments, Shaw missed a considerable chunk of the Vijay Hazare Trophy last year, but the run-piling – and more importantly, the rate of scoring – hasn’t dipped. In the 2022 IPL, he struck at 152.97 with two fifties. In the powerplay, that number stood at 150.69 – the third-best among all players in the tournament who opened more than once. In the 2022/23 Syed Mushtaq Trophy, Shaw was the second-highest run-getter [332 at 36.88] with a century and fifty: his strike rate of 181.42 was the highest for anyone with at least 150 runs in the edition.

For India’s T20I side – now without an ICC trophy for fifteen years – a changed approach at the top is much-needed. It’s unclear whether Rohit Sharma will play the format again; his long-time opening partner, Shikhar Dhawan, is unlikely to do so too. Since Shaw last played a T20I [in July 2021], a total of 12 players have opened for India in the format. Among all those who have batted in five or more innings, no opener barring Rohit Sharma has a strike rate of over 140. In fact, India’s powerplay strike rate during the 2022 T20 World Cup stood at 95.85, the third-worst in the competition.

If Rohit and Dhawan don’t play T20Is anymore, Shaw will sit among the following lot of openers currently in the scheme of things: KL Rahul, Ishan Kishan, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Shubman Gill. Rahul has blown hot and cold over the last couple of years (his T20I SR in 2022 was 127), Gaikwad hasn’t been able to quite repeat his domestic performances in India kit so far. Gill, in his debut T20I series this month, didn’t quite look the part, finishing with 58 runs in three games, at a strike rate of 131.81 (although it’s too early to form any judgement). There’s Sanju Samson too, but he’s currently not part of the squad. The bottom line is: the opening pair is open for trial and experimentation. With Shaw coming in, India can now look at a group of young openers to chalk out what their future T20I setup looks like.

It took a while coming, but Shaw’s numbers and skills have finally pushed him back into the Indian team. Now, the hope is that he continues in his merry ways. As a new era begins for their T20I side, a powerplay-bruiser who can take apart bowling attacks is one of the first things India needs. As for Shaw, it could be a new beginning: child prodigy, teenage sensation… India star?

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