“This [hundred] is special because it came after a long time,” Shaw said. “After training, and after giving myself time, [I am] coming back on track, which seems very good. I didn’t bat so much during the off-season. I was training with Vivek [Ramakrishna, Strength & Conditioning coach with Shaw’s IPL team Delhi Capitals]. I was training at the BKC [Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai]. First, we trained in Delhi and then came back and trained in Mumbai [during the off-season]. Just 12 days before the Duleep Trophy, I started batting just to get back on track with red-ball [cricket]. Otherwise, I was just working on my fitness.
“Back on track doesn’t mean I was going somewhere wrong. It’s like you are just lost somewhere and then you get to know yourself – you don’t belong there and you belong somewhere else. When you understand that, you feel back on track. And when you are scoring runs, it shows you have done something [right] – it might be training or on the field. It wasn’t just about training hard but yes, I lost a lot of weight. In the IPL, I had lost seven-eight kgs and I’m [back] there. So, it feels nice to be light.”
Shaw reckoned that “things could’ve been different” had he been fit during the IPL and fired for Capitals. However, he has now embraced the setbacks and is prepared to fight his way back into contention.
“In IPL, I got typhoid,” Shaw said. “That was the moment I could’ve played more games and scored runs for my team. Things could’ve been different. That is one thing that went wrong and obviously after that I was dropped. I trained again. See, in a cricketer’s life the graph can’t always go up. It will go up and down; it’s just the timing and it’s the year that has been very difficult for me. But I’m a person who takes it as a challenge and [looks to] come out of it.”
Shaw last played for India in July 2021, when he was part of a second-string side that toured Sri Lanka. He has since slipped down the pecking order so much that he isn’t even part of the India A side that is currently playing against New Zealand A in a three-match unofficial Test series in Karnataka. Does Shaw see this domestic season as a make-or-break one for him?
“I feel every match for me from here is really important,” he said.” I’m a guy who is a team man, but what I feel personally is every match is important for me – whatever opportunity comes towards me, I’ll try and grab it… I’ll just go there, train, work hard and score runs. Rest of it, I’ll let the selectors, and everyone else, make their decisions. I’ll just do my job.”
Shaw’s Duleep Trophy century came with a caveat – it was against a North-East side that was playing the Duleep Trophy for the first time. But he was pleased with the way how he played out the new Kookaburra ball under overcast Chennai skies on the first and second days. Shaw’s innings could’ve been cut short on 80 had wicketkeeper Ashish Thapa hung onto a fairly straightforward chance. North-East Zone then showed greater fight with the bat on the third day, forcing the West Zone bowlers to dig deep. Thapa made a cautious 43 off 103 balls while No. 8 Ankur Malik hit a more adventurous 81 off 95 balls, laced with a variety of sweeps.
“To be honest, if they [North-East Zone] are playing at this kind of a level, they’ve done something [right],” Shaw said. “Whichever players are there, a game is a game. You can’t really judge a bowler or a batsman with [just] their potential. They do have potential because that’s why they’re playing here and they were actually bowling quite well, to be honest. In the first 20-25 overs, they bowled really well. I think we were really confident about our strokes against them, which really helped.
“Yashasvi and Ajju [Rahane] bhai getting those doubles; I could’ve played a little bit longer. It’s not about the bowling attack being weak or strong, but you just need one ball to get out if you’re not focused enough. We were quite focused, that’s why we got these runs.”
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo