In The Time Of Goats, Dhawan Takes The Bull By The Horns > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - In times of GOATs, Dhawan takes the bull by the horns
Shikhar Dhawan and the PCA Stadium in Mohali share an intimate history. This famous, ol' stadium of Indian cricket was Dhawan's theatre for a dramatic introduction to Test cricket back in 2013. It was here that the famous all-swag 'arms wide open' celebration and the moustache twirl first made an appearance and captured the world's attention.
Certain venues can evoke a sense of comfort, one of near invincibility even, in a player. There's no rationale but cricket is littered with examples of such pairs. Sachin Tendulkar and Chepauk, Rohit Sharma and Eden Gardens, Vernon Philander and Newlands, and so on. For Dhawan that venue, could well be Mohali. It was fitting therefore that this fixture arrived in time to provide its doting partner a timely 'pick me up', before seeds of self-doubt could creep into his system before the World Cup.
It's easy to undervalue Dhawan's impact to this hugely successful ODI team simply because we live in a time of inane hyperbole, a world of GOATs or frauds, of half-understood extremes. Whereas in reality, most players operate somewhere in the middle, a shade of white and a dash of black. Dhawan may not bring the ruthless consistency of Virat Kohli or the wristy wizardry of Rohit Sharma, but his genius at the top of the order, the geometrical problems he poses bowlers because of his left-handedness is central to India's plans for domination in England later this year.
Dhawan is also among those players whose technical flaws are easily picked on by bowlers. It is no wonder therefore that he's among the more perceptive users of video technology in the team. The southpaw is often spotted using a camera and laptop at the nets to record and study specifics of his batting technique. It happened during a period when he impulsively pulled fast bowlers in South Africa. Later in England, he fought hard to diligently play the line and not get dragged by the swirl of Duke's ball.
But through his Test travails, Dhawan mostly remained untouchable in white-ball cricket since he was reinstated after an axing in early 2017. But trouble has found its way to the white-ball forms of late. Oshane Thomas and Lockie Ferguson hurried him with pace and cramped him for room. Ashley Nurse and Glenn Maxwell used the off-spinners' slider to have him LBW. And then Trent Boult swung the white ball in New Zealand and kept both his edges in play. In fact, left-arm pace alone had accounted for Dhawan six times in 82 deliveries in 2019 before this Mohali reunion.
And Australia brought one of their own - Jason Behrendorff - for this fixture. After whipping a surprisingly generous - and perhaps, fatigued - offering from Pat Cummins to get going, Dhawan faced his biggest test of the day from the left-armer who found swing for the briefest of periods at the start of the innings. Dhawan was late on his defence to a couple of the Behrendorff inswingers and inside edged balls to his pads, but unlike Ranchi, he was not forcing a release shot in a bid to impose his rhythm on the sequence of play.
He was 1 off 10 against Behrendorff, his exact score in the last game. Except, this time he was under no scoreboard pressure having picked his battles and looted 20 off the nine bowled by Cummins.
"Smart work paid off for me and I'm happy about it," he'd reflect during the mid-innings break. "The wicket was really nice, I took calculative risks, they were bowling good lines and I was respecting it. When you put so much of hardwork, you expect the outcome to go your way but sometimes it doesn't."
But today was not one of those days. In the sixth over, Dhawan punched a perfectly good Behrendorff delivery through an off-side cordon of four fielders for a boundary. If there ever was a confidence shot, this was it. Between the overs, he removed his arm-guard and sent it back. The collar on his jersey was yanked all the way up, revealing more of the orange against the India blue hue. Talk about contrasts. The exaggerated half-crouch on the stance returned, as did the whip past mid-wicket to an off-stump ball.
When Maxwell was brought on to the attack in the eighth over, he took fresh guard - on middle and leg - and played the full balls towards long on and long off when previously there may have been an itch to premeditate a sweep. The half-century, when it came off the 44th ball with Dhawan's ninth boundary, drew a big reaction from Rohit Sharma. He wrapped his partner in an embrace before doling out the glove loves. This meant something.
Dhawan tucked in for the long haul thereafter, hitting just a solitary four and a six, as he allowed Rohit the centre-stage to catch up with him in the 90s. The 18-innings century drought was ended in the 32nd over with a swivel-paddle past long stop for four. Mohali rose as one when the helmet came off, the arms were pushed wide open and the famous, toothy smile was beamed on the screen to an audience delivering a standing ovation.
Was there pressure? Is it now relief?
"No, no. I don't read newspapers, I don't take information I don't want to," Dhawan said. "I don't know what's happening in the world. I live in my own world. I make sure that I keep my composure. I perform best when I'm calm. There's no point cribbing or being sad. As a batsman I do feel sad, but I move on quickly. I know I'm doing my skill work, fitness and mindset. I work on them and then I wait and enjoy."
Enjoy, he did. It showed. The final 17-balls of Dhawan's innings yielded 42 runs as the southpaw pushed India to a total past 350. The struggles, the patchy form and murmurs of a rest were banished into distant memory with his highest ODI score. It was not in a win but the statement was resounding. India may have 99 problems, Shikhar Dhawan ain't one.
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