Kolkata: It’s almost a given that India will be ringing in a few sweeping changes to their squad for the Boxing Day Test - and going by the team management’s precedent before the first Test - they may be made ‘official’ within the next two days.
While two of these changes are induced by leave of absence (Virat Kohli) and injury (Mohammad Shami), the other two are ostensibly due to poor form in their nightmarish Adelaide loss. No prizes for guessing that one is talking about wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha for slipping up after a long, unblemished record behind the stumps in Tests and not doing enough with the bat and of course, Prithvi Shaw.
The rants in the social media ever since the ‘Summer of 36’ is only too understandable, especially when India were fighting on an even keel for the first two days of the Test match, but the way the 21-year-old Shaw was vilified for getting bowled in both innings laid bare the challenges that a modern day cricketer faces in no uncertain terms. It’s one thing to ask for a player’s replacement in case of failure, but it’s quite another to virtually make a scapegoat of a batsman who was hailed as Indian batting’s next big thing when he scored a century on debut against the West Indies at home in 2018.
Is it fair to write off the youngster, who had been short on confidence from the latter half of the Indian Premier League (IPL) itself, on the basis of one Test match where none of the Indian batsmen got to double digits in their second innings? There is a glaring error in his technique because of his high bat swing, which makes him succeptible to fall to sharp inswingers and one hopes Shubhman Gill - Shaw’s teammate from Under-19 days - can deliver if thrust in the new role.
One of the most vocal persons to talk about his faulty technique has been Ricky Ponting, the former Australian captain, who had spent a good three months with the opener as the coach of Delhi Capitals during the IPL in the UAE but surprisingly failed to address the issue. The gap between the bat and pad has been an age-old failing for batsmen but not surprsing in Shaw’s case, whose approach to batting is far different to the technically correct template of the Mumbai batsmen.
Hailed as a prodigious talent of sorts, Shaw had always been the quintessential strokeplayer who evoked comparisons with the inimitable Virender Sehwag. After a cruel ankle injury deprived him of the previous Australia tour and a ban on allegations of doping deprived of almost a year, Shaw still hasn’t done badly for himself with an aggregate of 339 runs at a respectable average of 42.4 from five Tests - including a century on debut and a half-century on a green top in New Zealand earlier this year.
Speaking to Gulf News over phone, Shishir Hattangadi, a former opener and prolific scorer of Mumbai team and now CEO of Baroda Cricket Association, wanted Shaw to take away the baggage of technique from his head. ‘‘To me, there is nothing called a right or wrong technique. The way Shaw has batted so far has served him well and that is the right one for him as he has the ability to change the course of a match if he stays in the wicket. He needs to clear his thought process and find a way whereby the ball hits the sweet spot on his bat again,’’ said Hattangadi, who had also served as the Head of Cricket Operations of Mumbai Indians.
There is certainly help at hand for Shaw Down Under, but even Lalchand Rajput - former Indian opener and a journeyman coach - feels it just needs a ‘couple of days’ work’ at the nets to iron out this flaw. Unlike Hattangadi, Rajput, who is often credited with helping Virat Kohli rediscover his confidence after a forgettable tour of England in 2014, felt Shaw’s technique needs to be tightended up if he has to succeed against quality fast bowling.
‘‘His bat comes from almost the gully region, and he makes an arc while he gets his bat down. So, the simpler way is that his backlift has to be made straighter. He must make sure that his right elbow touches his stomach. By doing that, his bat will become straight and the ‘gap’ will not be there. He can then combat the ball which comes in. I am sure that if he is with me (in the nets) for a couple of days, I can work it out,’’ he added.