Five years ago, a 14-year-old hit 546 runs in an inter-school cricket match in Mumbai. Back then, it was the highest score by a batsman in any form of cricket since 1902. While he was batting, the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team's selection committee was meeting, and deciding to appoint him their U16 captain. Fast-forward to January 2017, and that boy, now 17, made his Ranji Trophy debut for Mumbai's senior side, in a semi-final.
Facing a fourth-innings target of 261, he scored 105 to lead his side into the final, in the process becoming the youngest player to score a ton on debut for Mumbai since a certain Sachin Tendulkar. Later that same year, the boy surpassed the little master, breaking Tendulkar's record for the youngest centurion on Duleep Trophy debut. Soon after, he was named captain of India's U19 side for this year's World Cup, and ended the tournament by lifting the trophy, following in the footsteps of, among other famous Indians, Virat Kohli.
On Thursday, Prithvi Shaw, now 18, became the youngest-ever Indian to score a Test century on debut. Should that come as any surprise? Only Tendulkar, the player Shaw has idolised since he was a child, and modelled his game after, has scored a century for India at a younger age, and even he didn't do it in his first match. At times against the West Indies on Thursday, one could have been forgiven for thinking it was the great Indian batsman at the crease.
Shaw stands at roughly the same height as Tendulkar, has the same punchy drives and cuts, and bats with a similar flourish. The comparison has followed Shaw since his days racking up runs in school cricket, and though he's always kept a level head and downplayed it, the hype has grown and grown. On the first chance he had to justify it, the youngster delivered. He might be just 18, and baby-faced, but there's no doubting his talent now. After feeling nervous at the start of his innings, Shaw decided to play as if this was just any other game.
The result was reaching 50 in 56 balls even after fellow opener KL Rahul had been dismissed for a four-ball duck, then accelerating to get to his ton in just 99 deliveries, the third-fastest debut ton in Test history, before finally being dismissed for 134. The Tendulkar comparisons are inevitable, but Shaw's innings was also a throwback to different swashbuckling Indian batsman, who also scored a ton on debut. Virender Sehwag used to show the same sort of disdain for bowlers, especially spinners, and, eerily, India's run rate dipped sharply on Thursday after Shaw got out, just as it used to when Sehwag got out. But more than flashes of Indian greats, what really stands out about Shaw is his composure, the clarity of thought that has been guiding his batting for years.
Just compare how he's responded to two different record-breaking in innings. Back in 2013, he said, "I was just being patient. I didn't know about the record. I was just concentrating on my batting, picking the singles and doubles, and the loose balls for boundaries." And on Thursday: "I was waiting for the loose balls and they bowled many boundary balls. So I was trying to balance it out between playing the ball on its merit and attacking the loose balls." It's been five years of hype, lofty comparisons, records, and monumental achievements, and Prithvi Shaw may have arrived in international cricket, but he's still the same boy who just can't stop batting.