Shikhar Dhawan, born on December 5, 1985, is one of India’s leading young batsmen who has assured that the future of Indian team is bright. Nishad Pai Vaidya looks at the transformation in the Delhi dasher’s game.
In the year 2013, Indian cricket witnessed a seamless change of guard. A new generation — fearless and confident — arrived to take on the mantle and proved their mettle. The victory at the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 heralded a new era of confidence, as a young side lifted the trophy in tough conditions. A star of the show was the moustachioed Shikhar Dhawan — a batsman who went through the grind in domestic cricket after a promising time at the under-19 level. Today, as he turns 28, Dhawan is one of the symbols of India’s next generation.
In 2004, Dhawan dazzled the international stage when he was the leading run-scorer at the under-19 World Cup. However, the road thereafter was tough, as India had a settled unit and he needed something stellar to get into the side. The One-Day International (ODI) debut did come about in 2010, but he was dismissed for a blob. The ODI series in the Caribbean after the 2011 World Cup saw him score one fifty, but he looked in a hurry and for some reason — a bit undercooked. Many asked the question: Is he that typical domestic bunny?
Two years on, Dhawan stands vindicated — true to his name — Shikhar, which means the summit in Hindi. What is this Dhawan effect all about? If that swagger that exudes in his body-language. The twirling of the moustache and the aggressive walk sends a message to the opposition. Everything just looks so manly as if he is going to war with the bat being his sword.
It is that confidence that has rubbed off on Dhawan’s batting. From the man who made his debut in 2010, to the one who bludgeoned 187 in his first Test this year, Dhawan has improved by several notches. His technique looks tighter and there is conviction in his stroke-play. Earlier, one felt he was a bit too loose outside the off-stump, but give him width today and he will crash it into the boundary boards. If it is pitched a bit short, he doesn’t mind giving the charge. That is what he is all about!
While Dhawan did announce himself with that 187 against Australia on Test debut in March this year, his Champions Trophy performances inspired a lot more confidence. To get a ton on debut on home soil is one thing, but to score over 300 runs in a world tournament in England shows how much he has matured and worked on his game. There is a streak of obvious aggression, but there is some temperance attached to his game too. For a while it may seem that he is batting sensibly and taking his time, but a look at the scoreboard would reveal that he has raced to fifty at a run-a-ball.
This year, he already has six international tons — each coming in different circumstances and showing different sides to his batting. But, the double ton during the A tour to South Africa would be talked about for some time to come. He came ever so close to breaking Ali Brown’s record of the highest score in List A cricket and showed that he could make big scores in limited-overs cricket. Had that game been televised, his innings would have surely become a part of folklore. It is quite unfortunate that fans in India couldn’t watch him maul the bowling during that knock.
But, the striking feature in his batting has also been the dependability factor. Three of his five tons have come in run-chases and India have won on all occasions. Of course, he has had valuable support from Rohit Sharma at the other end, but Dhawan has the hunger to score big. The century at Nagpur was perhaps his best ODI innings, as India were chasing over 350 and he paced the innings brilliantly well. As a result, he set the tone for India — Virat Kohli in particular to finish it off. Having said that, one cannot forget his 95 at Jaipur — when India chased down 360. Rohit got three figures then, but Dhawan’s effort was as good as a hundred. It was that run-chase which gave the Indian batting the belief, no total was impossible.
Dhawan now braces for a more testing phase, as he gets ready for battles in South Africa, New Zealand and England in the coming months. He seems to have that Virender Sehwag like approach — if the ball is there to be hit, he would hit it. However, there is a bit more sense in his stroke-play and that is what has helped him to make the leap. Indian cricket may have found its next star, but he has more peaks to scale.
Also on cricketcountry.com