Filling in the shoes of a batsman of the calibre of Virender Sehwag is no easy task, but Shikhar Dhawan has emulated the Nawab of Najafgarh by scoring a hundred on his very first outing in Test cricket — and with the same ferocity of his Delhi senior. The talented southpaw was earmarked for bigger things at a young age and after years of hard work he has announced his arrival with a century on Test debut for India. The ease with which he played assured the selectors that he was ready for the highest level and that presented much optimism for India’s opening conundrum.
Like Sehwag, Dhawan is very aggressive at the crease. Sehwag, as mentioned above, made an entry into Test cricket with a ton on debut, albeit as a middle-order batsman. Dhawan is fearless and doesn’t shy away from playing his strokes. Sehwag’s uncomplicated approach has allowed him to play his strokes irrespective of the situation. Showing similar qualities, Dhawan charged to the fast bowler even when he was on 98. Predominantly an off-side player, there is a certain panache and a joie de vivre in his cover drives. That very quality was on display as the Australians were stunned by the debutant’s remarkable effort.
There were no signs of nerves as Dhawan was moving his feet positively. He got off the mark with a punch through the covers and his partner, Murali Vijay ran down to congratulate him. Not many would remember that Dhawan was dismissed for a duck on his One-Day International (ODI) debut against the same opposition. Vijay was his partner in that game as well.
Throughout the innings, Dhawan drove the fast-bowlers on the rise with a good stride forward. His first boundary was a beautifully timed cover drive off Peter Siddle. He followed that up with a pull through square-leg a few deliveries later. When the spinner came on, he charged down the wickets and disturbed his rhythm. The shot that stood out was an inside-out drive that streaked along the green carpet to the boundary. If Lady Luck eluded him on his ODI debut, she was by his side today as the edges found the gaps and sped away from the boundary. The Australian commentators asked their Indian counterparts, “Where have you been hiding this fellow?”
On 99, Dhawan blocked and ran for his life towards the non-striker’s end. The desperate dive got him the coveted landmark — and the Test record — as he rose to celebrate the moment. Meanwhile, the ball went to the ropes for four overthrows to add insult to Australia’s injury. He scored all his runs in one session as he was unbeaten on nought at lunch. The 100 had come off only 85 balls — the fastest ton by a debutant in the history of the game. It contained 21 fours, which makes it a fantastic 84 runs in boundaries! He broke West Indian Dwayne Smith’s feat of scoring the previous ton off 93 deliveries.
Dhawan has become the 13th Indian to score a hundred on Test debut. Suresh Raina was the last Indian to enter the club. The Delhi southpaw has joined the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Mohammad Azharuddin, Sehwag and Gundappa Viswanath to name a few. Dhawan’s success in a series that has given much joy to India augurs well for India’s future.
Gautam Gambhir and Sehwag’s struggles had India in copious problems as the once prolific firm failed to provide good starts. In the last game Vijay showed great resilience and scripted a determined hundred. Now, it is Dhawan who has joined the party. It is said that well begun is half done, but India’s new opening pair have a lot of work to do to establish themselves in the long run. For now, India can hold on to hope and celebrate Dhawan’s success.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)