Decoding Prithvi Shaw

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India has done a splendid job in introducing new talent into the cricket world. We see uncapped players emerging from each edition of the Indian Premier League and young heroes getting spotlight from the U19 World Cups and Domestic games. The abundant talent has led India to select two different sides that will tour England and Sri Lanka separately. Although the decision could have been driven by recent travel restrictions, it’s a luxury that India can afford and that could become a norm in future. Even a sequence of injuries and departure of main players couldn’t stop a second-string India side from sealing a test series at Gabba – a venue where Australia hadn’t lost a test match for 32 years. But the flip side is that it’s an intense competition.

Prithvi Shaw is one such player who has already experienced highs and lows at the beginning of his career. Ever since he captained India to U19 World Cup victory in 2018, he has been in radar. He scored a century in his test debut against West Indies and was subsequently selected for Australia tour in late 2018. He even scored a half-century in a practice game in Australia, which almost sealed his place as a permanent opener. An ICC tournament victory, a debut test hundred and a place in an Away tour are things any aspiring player would wish for, but an injury ruled him out of the tour and a subsequent 1-year ban due to a doping test meant that he was out of action in 2019.

He was back to the squad for New Zealand tour in early 2020 with Rohit Sharma getting injured. Shaw looked promising but not too impressive either. His spot was not in danger though as barring the T20 series, the rest of the tour was a struggle for most of the Indian players who were involved. It was during IPL 2020 where he started to struggle a lot and his technical flaw was getting exposed. He was frequently getting out bowled to in swinging deliveries and it was evident that bowlers would take advantage of it. In the 1st test of the recent Australian tour, Shaw was dismissed for a duck and a single digit score and was dropped from the squad.

IPL 2021 was the next big assignment for Prithvi Shaw. First game against Chennai, he opened the batting to chase a total of 189. As usual for CSK, Deepak Chahar had the ball in hand. Shaw has already faced a tough couple of years and now he must face a bowler who has dismissed him 5 out of last 6 games that they have played against each other. He started off with a boundary and went on to score a match winning 85. There was no stopping Prithvi Shaw in IPL 2021 as he scored 308 runs from 8 games at a strike rate of 166.

He played in a different rhythm when compared to previous IPL and Australia tour. There was a clear change in technique observed and experts credited his coach Praveen Amre for bringing a change in him, during the off-season. He had already piled up plenty of runs in Vijay Hazare trophy and now his exploits in IPL will boost his chances for a comeback to Indian side.

Let’s observe what exactly are the changes that Shaw had made to his technique compared to last year. His technique from IPL 2020, when he faced Jofra Archer, is being compared to his technique in IPL 2021, when he faced off Deepak Chahar. Both the deliveries were from the 1st over of the innings.

Stance and Back lift:

Shaw’s stance is perfect. He takes guard at leg stump and has a back lift that is positioned at a perfect height – When he grips his bat, it is positioned just above off stump. He doesn’t tap his bat to the ground and hence he has more time to open the face of the bat and play a range of shots. Shaw hasn’t changed this position when compared to last year.

Employing Back and Across Trigger Movement:

Previously, Shaw never had any feet movement (which wasn’t exactly an issue though). But during the start of IPL 2021, he started using back and across trigger movement to come closer towards off stump. This ensured that he covers his stumps fully and to judge balls bowled at 4th stump line. Also, one can notice how close he has brought his bat towards his body. This is also evident by the toe end of his bat, which was pointed towards 1st slip last year but is now positioned towards the keeper.

Bat Swing

Shaw is a naturally aggressive player due to his heavy swing of the bat. However, the way in which he tried to swing was a major issue last year, which affected his timing and also led to an increase in gap between bat and pad. In IPL 2020, notice how when he lifted his bat to swing, his bat face is fully pointed towards Gully. He then has to bring his bat behind to start his swing. With his changed approach, when he lifts his bat, the bat face is slightly positioned at an angle towards gully and slip (Might be invisible to the naked eye in straight view but a side on view would have helped). This happens due to the correction he made during last step. Since he had positioned his bat facing towards keeper and playing close to the body, his swing starts right from the moment when he begins to lift his bat thus saving some time.

Facing the ball

Due to the big gap between his bat and body and with stumps clearly visible to the bowler, he was vulnerable to in swinging deliveries and was bowled by Jofra Archer in IPL 2020. While facing Chahar, he successfully leg glanced it towards boundary.

However, since Shaw has started to come close to off-stump, he is now vulnerable to getting out LBWs. Notice in the image where he leg glances Deepak Chahar for a boundary. If Chahar had bowled slightly faster or bowled at 4th stump line and swinged it back in, he could have got Shaw out for LBW.

Given that Prithvi Shaw has addressed his timing and gap issue, he is less vulnerable to in swinging deliveries compared to last year. But Shaw is relatively untested in conditions such as England, where the ball offers a lot more seam movement and a larger degree of swing. With additional pace, even a fraction of delay might trouble him.

Along with his modified technique, Shaw can consider swinging his bat straighter rather than taking it across and then bringing the bat close to body. Since he is now positioning his bat towards keeper, he can try swinging it towards that direction. This will increase his timing further and also allow him to play in line with the balls coming close to stumps. He can still play his desired shots like cut shots, cover drive or a straight drive. Alternatively, he can try to lift his bat earlier in such a way that when the bowler reaches his delivery stride, the ball is ready to be hit. Virender Sehwag used to do this in his playing days and had a perfect timing but it’s only possible if Shaw is comfortable with an early bat lift, as coordination is different for each individual. Most of the players go through technical changes in their careers but it takes lot of practice in the nets and players need time to realize if they are comfortable with the change.

Prithvi Shaw is currently out of Indian side and the opening combination of Rohit-Gill and Rohit-Dhawan seems to be fixed in Test and limited overs, respectively. However, age is a big advantage for Shaw and an aggressive player like him can’t be kept out for long. He has proved that he can adapt and make a comeback. It could be a case where fans are yet to see the best of him and if he comes back, it might be interesting to see how he responds.

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