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DC’s season is in Shaw’s hands, as is his T20I future

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Last updated on 31 Mar 2023 | 11:05 AM
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DC’s season is in Shaw’s hands, as is his T20I future

Awaiting the 23-year-old is arguably the most important two months of his career, yet

Prithvi Shaw starts with the letter ‘P’, as does ‘Powerplay Basher’. Coincidence? Maybe not.”

The above is the kind of ‘meme’ we would have seen floating around back in the day on Facebook had Shaw, say, been an active player in 2012. 

Who knows, some RVCJ admin could yet end up freshly making this ‘meme’ soon, now that IPL 2023 is about to kick-off.

But the point is this: in the IPL at least, Shaw has indeed been synonymous with powerplay bashing.

And there’s a reason for that. 

Above is a chart depicting the powerplay batting performances of every batter that has amassed 350 or more powerplay runs across the last two seasons of the IPL. The list features some absolute T20 beasts such as Jos Buttler and Quinton de Kock.

By now I’m presuming you’ve spotted Shaw. And I’m also automatically presuming that your jaw has dropped.

Understandably so, because just look at those numbers! Since IPL 2021, Shaw has scored 570 runs in the powerplay at an average of 43.85 and strike rate of 162.9.

His average alone is elite — only four others in the list have averaged over 40, and only Buttler and Rahul have bettered his 43.85.  

What makes Shaw far and away the most destructive, impactful batter in the powerplay, though, is the fact that he’s managed to couple this with a strike rate of 162.9………… when the second-highest SR in the list is 129.1.

He is no uncertain terms, a powerplay god.

But with Shaw, herein lies the problem as well. He is, or at least so far has been, just that.

For one, he’s not been a prolific run-getter.

In his IPL career that’s spanned five years, there’s only been one season in which Shaw has amassed more than 400 runs. 

Sure enough, he’s an impact player who shouldn’t be judged on the volume of runs he scores. But 400 runs a season is not a big ask, particularly for someone of Shaw’s talent — it roughly translates to 28.57 runs per game in a 14-match campaign.

Nor has he been the kind to make starts count and score big. 

A couple of weeks ago, England’s Phil Salt described a world-class player as “someone who takes the game on by themselves and wins it.”

Essentially a Buttler, someone who does not just stop after an impactful thirty and turns that start into a match-winning 75 or 80, killing the opponent and the game alike.

In his short career, Shaw, if anything, has been the anti-Buttler.

In his IPL career, Shaw has passed the 30-run mark 21 times. Eye-wateringly enough, only thrice has he gone and turned it into a 70+ score. He’s passed fifty 12 times and been dismissed on or before 66 a staggering nine times. 

Lying right here, and in the few paragraphs above, is a big clue as to why Shaw has not been a regular for the national team. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

For Shaw, though, as a new IPL season awaits, as does a new challenge — of evolving, growing beyond his ‘powerplay monster’ reputation and turning himself into a more complete, consistent batter.

***

When Delhi Capitals, last year, zeroed-in on Shaw as one of three Indians that would form the core of the franchise for the next decade, they did it with the hope that he would, some day, evolve and move to the next level; that some day, he would turn into a world-beater.

It did not quite happen last season as after a promising start to the campaign — 160 runs at a SR of 170.2 in the first 4 matches — he finished IPL 2022 with an average of 28.30, his season heavily affected by a bout of illness towards the end.

But DC now find themselves in a situation where they need Shaw to level-up and have his most prolific season yet. 

Even despite the presence of Rishabh Pant, the Capitals, last year, were a quality Indian batter short when they fielded their best possible XI. Shreyas Iyer was not replaced in the mega auction and it hurt them big time as none of Mandeep Singh, Lalit Yadav, KS Bharat, Ripal Patel and Sarfaraz Khan provided the cutting edge that was required.

This season, even before a single ball has been bowled, things have already gotten a thousand times worse for the franchise, who will be without the services of their skipper Pant, whose season ended in January following a major car crash.

They did acquire the services of Manish Pandey in the mini auction but even then, Pant’s injury has effectively left Delhi with Shaw as the only reliable and recognized top-order Indian batter, with the former’s T20 game having steadily declined over the years. 

It is these circumstances that have raised the stakes for Shaw, who can no longer continue to be that batter who is there for a good time and not a long time.

***

The challenge that lies ahead for Shaw, whichever way you look at it, is a monumental one.

For ultimately, he has to break new ground — quickfire thirties and forties from his bat won’t cut it anymore for DC. It did when he had both Pant and Iyer in front of him but this time around the franchise will have neither. He is the senior man and he will need to take responsibility.

By no means will it be easy, especially considering he’s never really been anything but an impact player even in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy for Mumbai. 

But his jaw-dropping List A record is enough evidence to suggest that Shaw has it in him to take his T20 batting to a whole new level. 

At the 50-over level, Shaw has been able to marry explosiveness with consistency; he’s been able to not just score quick but also score big.

A batting average of 52.54 catches the eye but what really stands out is the fact that 50% of his List A hundreds have been 150+ scores, with two of those knocks reading 185* and 227*.

Different levels, sure. But Shaw’s shown enough in his young career to make us believe that he’s capable of transcending formats. 

A player of his talent is either way far too good to simply bat in the powerplay and then say:

For Shaw, there’s a bigger prize to play for, too — the grandest of all prizes, a place in the Indian T20I side.

On the back of Rohit and Rahul’s horror showing in the T20 World Cup last year, clamors for Shaw to become the first-choice opener in T20Is reached an all-time high but that he wasn’t a part of the starting XI — or even the squad — for the New Zealand T20Is was down to him not breaking the door down.

Sure, the selectors had every reason to pick him. But they also had plenty of reasons to not. 

But should Shaw demolish the league like Suryakumar did three years ago, he will ultimately take the decision out of the selectors’ hands.

* ̶S̶a̶i̶ ̶B̶a̶b̶a̶  Prithvi Shaw, hope you’re  ̶w̶a̶t̶c̶h̶i̶n̶g̶  reading. Your T20 future is in your own hands.*

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