The prodigious Prithvi Shaw, not very far back hailed as the future Sachin Tendulkar, has just been handed an 8-months doping ban by the BCCI. How much will it bruise his nascent brand?
Last year Prithvi Shaw was hot. Really really hot.
On his first international appearance on 4 October 2018 Shaw became the second-youngest Indian after Tendulkar to make a Test century and the youngest Indian to do so on Test debut. His previous ticket to fame had been his score of 546 runs from 330 balls playing for Rizvi Springfield in a Harris Shield match, creating a national schools record. Shaw's innings lasted 367 minutes over two days and included a whopping 85 fours and five sixes which helped his team, Rizvi Springfield, take an 899-run first-innings lead! A legend had been born.
There was much excitement in cricket circles, of course, but also much anticipation and analysis amongst advertising folks. Here was a potential new star.
Then almost immediately, Shaw started to throw starry tantrums. His lawyers sent out cease-and-desist orders to Freecharge and Swiggy for running congratulatory ads on his maiden hundred which he claimed was a commercial misuse of his brand goodwill. There was a lot of brouhaha. Brand Shaw did not come out looking too good.
Well almost as quickly as he had accelerated up the rungs of global cricket, his game started to sputter and worse, he got injured. For many months he was on the sick list while younger peers like Rishabh Pant overtook him. He missed the bus to the ICC 2019 World Cup. And his cricket has been in general doldrums.
The doping ban is a double-downer for Shaw. First the sickness. Hence, no cricket. Now the ban. Again no cricket.
Even in the Indian Institute of Human Brands (IIHB) survey earlier this year on emerging talent in the Indian squad, Shaw did not come out too well. I remember writing in Campaign
that “ … while the research puts Rishabh Pant ahead of the rest of his young team mates, the success he has had in the on-going Australia series could have had a halo effect on the scores, giving him the advantage of recency in recognition, rememeberance and recall. Because of being on sick leave, Prithvi Shaw has surely suffered. Though his noteworthy prodigious performance was not too far back in the year, Shaw seems already a bit faded compared to Pant for example being visible and in all the current news not only as a wicket-keeper, a centurion batsman but also for the ‘baby-sitting’ episode with the Australian captain Tim Paine. Nevertheless, Pant shines ahead of the rest of the pack, whatever be the reasons.” And Pant’s rise to stardom at the World Cup including his endorsements with Cadbury’s, Himalaya and Coca Cola proved my predictions right about it being a PANTASTIC year ahead.
How will Brand Shaw look like to advertising decision makers especially with the new doping stigma? Shaw may have got faulted on a technicality but the reality is he carries a ban for a doping violation. His urine sample tested positive for the banned substance Terbutaline. Shaw stated that he inadvertently ingested a prohibited substance, which can be commonly found in cough syrups. Innocent enough. The BCCI accepted his plea. But the law is the law.
Shaw hasn’t done badly on advertising assignments so far. He is already an Indian Oil employee and endorses their brands. Protinex was his first big one from Danone’s Protinex. Then came Navneet Youva. And then Nike. Shaw also carries an MRF bat. Not bad for someone so young.
The doping ban may be more in the nature of a rap on the knuckles but it will slow down brands. They will wait for him to come back after this now extended hiatus. And they will wait for him to come back good and strong. Catch up with Rishabh Pant. Surpass him. Stand up to his potential and promise. He is going to miss the West Indies Tour. And South Africa. And Bangladesh. In cricket that is helluva lost opportunity.
Commentator Harsha Bhogle has backed the banned youngster and said that the BCCI should tread carefully regarding Shaw’s matter and should provide the right support to the right-handed batsman. He said that Shaw was a kid who had worked very hard to become a successful cricketer. His tweet in fact was soul-touching, “Indian cricket needs to handle Prithvi Shaw carefully and set him on the right path. This is a kid who has achieved success the hard way.” I could not agree more.
Dr. Sandeep Goyal loves writing on cricket. And Shaw is special.