As Prithvi Shaw walks out to do an interview, there is some good-natured ribbing from the dressing room balcony. The banterer is Suryakumar Yadav, one of Mumbai's senior batsmen, but Shaw is undaunted. As he walks ahead, Shaw shouts out a suitably funny response that cracks up Suryakumar. Still only 17, Shaw's "I-belong-here" assuredness seems a natural evolution from the time he made a hundred on first-class debut against Tamil Nadu at the start of the year. With his latest century - his third in four first-class matches - coming against the same opposition, Shaw has completed a small circle of sorts.
His 155-ball 123 against an attack comprising R Ashwin, K Vignesh, Vijay Shankar and Rahil Shah is the latest pronouncement of the batting sensation he has grown to be. The intensity of his ambition is amplified when you hear him rue missing a double hundred. He may have started his career on a high note, but Shaw is pragmatic about the need to be consistent.
"The more consistent I am, the better it will be for me," he said at the end of the day's play in Mumbai. "There are people watching too, like the selectors, and it is important to be consistent. If you score a hundred in one game and then don't do much in the next three or four matches, then that hundred doesn't mean anything. I have learnt from many experienced players in the Mumbai team as well as the India A team how to be consistent. That helps a lot to ensure that I don't get into bad form."
Over the last 10 months, Shaw has embarked on a multi-dimensional cricketing journey, playing different formats and at different levels. He finished as the leading run-getter in the youth Tests against England with an aggregate of 250 at an average of 62.50, including three fifties from four innings. While his returns in the limited-overs series that followed were underwhelming in comparison, Shaw smashed a 154 against India Blue in the Duleep Trophy. After another brief lull against New Zealand A, Shaw opened the batting for the Board President's XI side and made 66 against the touring New Zealand side. Being exposed to higher levels of cricket, Shaw felt, helped him grow as a cricketer.
"Playing at the under-19 and India A levels, you get to learn a lot of things from the likes of Rahul [Dravid] sir," he said. "Then, playing in the Ranji Trophy becomes a little easier. Mumbai coach Sameer [Dighe] sir has also helped. The biggest difference at the Ranji Trophy level is that of the pace you face. You don't get as many quick bowlers at the Under-19 level. You do find some, but they are not as experienced as the ones you face in the Ranji Trophy."
Batting against Ashwin, who bowled a disciplined spell, was another vital aspect of Shaw's learning process. It was, in fact, Ashwin who eventually dismissed him in the 54th over. "It was a good experience facing him," he said. "To watch an experienced bowler like him bowl on a flat wicket was [a learning process]. I didn't have any specific plans, and was just looking to play him normally like I played other spinners. But, Ashwin is a very experienced player and he knew very well what this wicket would do."
Skill-wise, Shaw has prospered as much from his adherence to batting routines as an overall improvement in fitness levels. "I think the more you practise batting, follow the drills, the better you get," he said. "All this, along with the fitness routines, have helped me in the last one year. I never used to do so much gym-work in the past, so this has been helpful. If your body remains fit, everything else becomes easy."