Shikhar Dhawan plays down “pressure” surrounding India at World Cup
Shikhar Dhawan caresses one through the off side. (AFP Image)

India are one of the favourites heading into the World Cup. But as big a compliment it is, the “favourite” tag carries extra pressure and Shikhar Dhawan feels it is important for the team to not buckle under any when India begin their World Cup campaign in England.

Dhawan, who in all likelihood, will play his second World Cup starting May 30, in an interview with CricketNext, revealed how it is important to not make the World Cup their only agenda and focus on one thing at a time. India play South Africa on June 5 in their first match of the tournament but before that, they face Australia in five ODIs, followed by a couple of warm-up games prior to the ICC event.

“We have won the Champions Trophy, which is like a mini-World Cup. I personally believe that we shouldn’t make winning the World Cup the end of the world,” Dhawan said. “It’s only going to create more pressure. We have to focus on processes and solutions because those are the things that are going to win you the World Cup. Only the thought is not going to win you the title, the road to the title is more important so don’t commit mistakes on that road.”

What also works in India’s favour is their recent record in ICC tournaments in England. They emerged victorious in the 2013 Champions Trophy and were runners-up in the next edition four years later. Moreover, India have been in the middle of a hot winning streak in ODIs which began with their Asia Cup triumph September and kept gaining steam with bilateral series wins against West Indies, Australia and most recently New Zealand.

“One-Day series against Australia is coming up. Preparation for ODI series is different from T20 because in the latter we take more risk. Also, we play according to the demand of the team and the wicket in ODI matches,” Dhawan said.

“We have played so much in England, there won’t be any special preparation for the series. The good thing is that we have a variety of ‘throwers’ in our team to help out with practice. They are both left-handed and right-handed and throw to speeds up to 150kph. When I prepare in the nets, I go with a plan.”

Dhawan comprises India’s top three along with Rohit Sharma and skipper Virat Kohli, and together they have been instrumental in the team’s success. Despite his lean run in Tests, Dhawan has amassed impressive numbers in the last year or so. In the two Champions Trophy he has played in, the opener has scored 363 and 338 runs from five matches each.

“Last year was very good for me, I scored some 900 runs in ODI, I was top run-getter in the world in the T20 format. Few matches went here and there, which is alright. I look to find out areas where I can get better and become a better batsman. I am very happy and content in the way I have been performing,” Dhawan added. “All of the preparation right now is gearing up for the World Cup and the fresher the players are, the better it is for the team. It these five weeks, I did a lot of training and I have benefitted a lot from that as well. I am fresh and I am ready to go.”

About his partnership with Rohit, with whom he has been opening the innings since the last six years, Dhawan explained how the experience of batting together for so many years has matured them.

“I want to thank maalik (God) that my opening partnership with Rohit (Sharma) is still going strong. We have been performing consistently and both of us have performed well for the side. It feels good to know that we are counted among the top opening pairs in the world.

“Both of our games have matured with time. The responsibility on our shoulders has also increased. We know how to go about an innings, when to take risk, when not to. We know the pattern of the team. Our strength is that technically also we are strong and game sense is also strong. Rohit has over 200 games now and I have played 125 ODIs, so that also counts a lot. In pressure situations, we don’t panic at all. This patience has come with time.”