Prithvi Shaw is a player we've heard a lot about over the course of the past decade, and he's still only 21 years old.
Known for his exploits at the school level and in domestic cricket in Mumbai, the right-hander has already had a number of outlandish comparisons thrown at him. Shaw has been labelled 'a combination of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar', and while his likeness with the Little Master is mostly down to stature and an MRF bat, it is undeniable that he bears a sharp resemblance to the former.
Virender Sehwag and Prithvi Shaw are both players who rely (relied) on hand-eye coordination and fast hands to make up for their lack of foot movement, and very few players in the history of cricket have been gifted enough to pull off this style of batting.
For what it's worth, Shaw seemed like the real deal when he smashed a hundred on Test debut against the West Indies. He was fearless with his strokeplay and gave India a quick start like Sehwag had done so many times in the past.
But since then, the young batsman's career has tapered off. Prithvi Shaw finds himself in a real pickle as India head to Australia in an attempt to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Prithvi Shaw expected to open for India in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy
After his age-defying century on Test debut against the West Indies, Prithvi Shaw was considered to be a fixture in the playing XI for the 2018/19 Border-Gavaskar Trophy. He was expected to be right at home on the pitches Down Under, with his backfoot-dominant batting expected to prey on the Aussie bowlers' shortcomings.
Unfortunately for Shaw, he suffered an ankle injury while fielding on the boundary in a warm-up game and was ruled out of the tour. Things went from bad to worse for the opener, as in July 2019, he failed a dope test and was banned by the Board of Control for Cricket in India for 8 months.
In February earlier this year, Prithvi Shaw played two Tests away at New Zealand after more than 16 months away from the longest format of the game. His technical weaknesses were woefully exposed by Trent Boult and Tim Southee as India were whitewashed 2-0, and although he scored a fifty in the 2nd Test, the damage to his reputation as an international batsman was done.
The 13th edition of the Indian Premier League only worsened matters, as Shaw found himself dropped from the playing XI after failing to put bat to ball in many successive innings. He failed to capitalise on his bright start to the tournament, and didn't really play a big role in the Delhi Capitals' run to the final.
But despite all of these setbacks, Prithvi Shaw is expected to open the innings for India in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Rohit Sharma is reportedly set to miss out on the first two Tests after failing to board his flight to Australia, and captain Virat Kohli will fly back to India after the first Test to attend the birth of his child.
In Rohit's absence, Mayank Agarwal's opening partner will be one among Hanuma Vihari, Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul and Shubman Gill. Vihari hasn't played top-level cricket in many months now after not finding a buyer in the IPL 2020 auction, while Gill's appearances for India have been limited to two ODIs last year. Rahul's batting position will be one to watch out for, and with Kohli gone, he might just be used in the middle order.
As a result, Prithvi Shaw might walk out to the middle in Adelaide on the 17th of December with his short international career already on the line.
Competition fierce at the top of the order for India in all 3 formats
Prithvi Shaw is only 21 years old, so it might be premature to claim that his international career is on the line. But we've seen a number of examples where a bad performance or two results in a batsman losing out on the playing XI, with his replacement coming up with the goods and closing the door on his competitors.
Shaw's reputation has taken a major hit in recent years, and it won't be long before critics start baying for his exclusion from the Test team. The 21-year-old already isn't a part of the stacked limited-overs setups in which India are spoilt for choice despite the absence of their vice-captain.
If Prithvi Shaw strings together a couple of failures, he will definitely be replaced when Rohit returns to take his rightful place in the playing XI. And with both Rohit and Mayank almost established as openers in red-ball cricket, Shaw might find himself not only out of the XI but behind Gill, Vihari and maybe even Rahul in the pecking order.
India also have a number of players knocking on the door with their performances in the domestic circuit and for India A. Young stars like Devdutt Padikkal and Ruturaj Gaikwad, who haven't done much at the top level to warrant a call-up at the moment, undoubtedly have better techniques than Prithvi Shaw.
India's next assignment is a Test series against England at home, and the dusty pitches of the subcontinent are greatly conducive to opening batsmen. Openers like Shikhar Dhawan might even earn Test recalls if they do well in the limited-overs games, and Shaw is in danger of missing out.
Prithvi Shaw is still a quality player who deserves to be given a fair run of games, but he will have to be wary of the Indian selectors, who haven't exactly been patient in the recent past. The youngster's international career might just be on the line in the 2020/21 Border-Gavaskar Trophy, and he will have to be careful not to follow a career path like Parthiv Patel, Aakash Chopra or Wasim Jaffer.