Dhawan lets his bat do the talking

Dhawan lets his bat do the talking

Champions Trophy

Dhawan lets his bat do the talking

Shikhar Dhawan is a man of few words. Articulation isn’t his strongest forte. But what he does know is how to let his bat do the talking and for a batsman to be heard, it’s all that is required.      

Dhawan’s first few international outings hardly gave any hint of the batsmanship he is capable of. His iffy stints at the crease didn’t suggest he belonged to the stage. Since his debut for India against Australia in 2010 in a one-dayer, where he was out for a duck, his appearances in India colours have been sporadic. Just five ODIs before the game against South Africa here on Thursday, in over two and a half years indicated his struggles. It appeared he was destined to join that long list of ‘domestic kings.’

To his credit, the Delhi batsman never gave up hope despite myriad youngsters stealing his march. Every time he was discarded, he went back to domestic cricket and piled on huge amount of runs to stay under the selectors’ radar. Having caught the eye with a fabulous show in the Under-19 World Cup in Dhaka in 2005, Dhawan had to wait for another five years to cut his teeth in international cricket and he needed nearly three more years to establish himself in the side.

When he was cleaned up by Clint McKay for a second-ball duck on his debut, Dhawan’s world had come crashing down but a piece of advice from skipper MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina got stuck in his mind.

“I still remember when I debuted for India in one-dayers and got out for zero against Australia. Then (MS) Dhoni bhai and (Suresh) Raina had told me that players who’ve got out on zero for India on debut, have gone on to become big,” he had recalled on the eve of his Test debut. 

Time only will tell where Dhawan’s journey eventually ends, but going by his last two international innings there is no reason to believe why he shouldn’t join the list of greats.   

Since his comeback to Indian squad, he has played only two internationals – a Test against Australia this March and Thursday’s one-dayer against South Africa – but his knocks, both centuries, strongly imply that he is in for a long haul. In a cricket set-up that is fixated with age, Dhawan’s is refreshingly a rare case. At 27, his journey has just begun. In a system where being in late 20s means your chances of return to international cricket get drastically reduced no matter how good a player you are (ask S Badrinath), Dhawan, in a way, has broken that mould.

On the positive note, it could be the result of his long grind in domestic cricket that the ease and authority with which he is playing quality bowling attacks now. “I feel lucky that I have played for six-seven years in domestic cricket and the fact that I am making my Test debut with that experience, I feel more confident,” he had said prior to the Mohali Test in which he cracked his epic 187 off 174, the fastest century by a debutant.

That the innings against Australia wasn’t a fluke was proved on Thursday when he slammed a confident century against South African. Without Dale Steyn, the Proteas’ attack had lost some of its edge, but then there are no easy runs in international cricket. He betrayed few nerves and notwithstanding a nasty-looking hit on his helmet by Ryan McLaren, the left-hander took the attack to the opposition in an audacious display of batting.

Part of his success can be attributed to the fact that he doesn’t complicate things, just like his illustrious State-mate Virender Sehwag, whom he replaced in the side incidentally.
“Just watch the ball and play the ball,” he said about his approach. If batting was only so simple!