In any sport, when a youngster bursts onto the scene with an exceptional performance, it can spark mass hysteria. Sometimes it’s difficult to cope with the expectation, as performance levels cannot be sustained.
This situation is faced by many young Indian cricketers when they mark their arrival in the sport via a massive three-figure – in one case four-figure – innings, the kind of feat that provokes nationwide news coverage. But are prodigious innings from young Indians a sign of things to come, or simply a peak that can never be replicated, let alone improved upon?
The case of Privthi Shaw is a good place to start. In 2013, the then-14-year-old scored 546 (yep, 546) in the Harris Shield on the maidan in Mumbai, the highest score ever recorded in Indian minor cricket. Poignantly, it came just four days after Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement from all forms of the game; as one career ends, another begins. For the record, Shaw batted for 330 balls and a little over six hours, hitting 85 fours and five sixes, helping notch up an 899-run first-innings lead!
Shaw’s career has maintained a healthy trajectory, opening the batting for India U19s, while also skippering the side. He has scored 232 runs so far at the U19 World Cup, averaging 77.33.
There was also mountain of adolescent runs from the man Shaw calls his idol, Tendulkar. In the same competition in which Shaw scored 546, the Little Master held the record of the tournament’s highest partnership – an unbroken 664 with Vinod Kambli. Clearly, pressure from an early age didn’t negatively affect his career. Kambli however, while he hit his first ball in Ranji cricket for six and went on to average over 54 in 17 Tests, never quite adjusted to life at the top and never played for India in Tests after the age of 24.
One youngster who fared even less well is Sanjeev Jadhav, who now works for Air India. He scored 442 for Sacred Heart Boys High School in 1985, but only managed three first-class games. Talking about the pressure he felt after his monster innings, he warned the media to give breathing space to India’s latest prodigy, Pranav Dhanawade.
Dhanawade, then 15, made national headlines in 2016 when he scored an unbeaten 1,009 from 323 balls during a two-day game in the HT Bhandari Cup inter-school tournament, a game his team won by an innings and 1,382 runs. Dhanawade’s six-and-a-half hour knock was the first four-figure score in a recognised cricket match and earned Dhanawade a five-year scholarship from the Mumbai Cricket Association. Now 17, he is still playing but has not made any appearances for India at junior level.