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Dhawan's comeback

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Shikhar_Dhawan_India_CricketThe moustache twirl has been replaced by the thwack of the thigh. The impish smile has changed to a more self-assured grin. But those cuts and drives on the off-side, though, look as disdainful as ever.

Shikhar Dhawan has made a triumphant return to the Indian ODI team and his exploits in the ongoing ICC Champions Trophy in England have set him on a path for another long and successful stint for the country. Given how he had lost favour with the Indian selectors last year after inconsistent performances and how the young KL Rahul had grabbed the opener’s slot, Dhawan’s re-entry into the team was not even being considered a few months back. But an injury to Rahul allowed Dhawan another opportunity to prove his mettle and he has done so with aplomb.

In the three matches that Dhawan has played in the Champions Trophy for India, he has plundered 271 runs – the highest in the tournament thus far – at an average of 90.33 with one hundred and two fifties and is looking good for more. More than the runs, it is the assured way he has collected them makes one believe that Dhawan is here to stay this time.  

What’s interesting is that when Dhawan’s name was announced in the Champions Trophy squad, there was a furore on social media. People mocked him, claiming it was Gautam Gambhir who deserved that spot more and were sure that Dhawan would come a cropper in the tournament. It was almost certain that a failure here by the left-handed opener would have given people enough fodder to tarnish Dhawan’s name with great gusto.

It is great credit to Dhawan, hence, that despite the odds not being in his favour, he has made the most of the situation. With this stupendous performance, he has shut his critics up for good. In fact, a batsman who has 10 hundreds and 19 fifties in just 79 ODIs and scores his runs at an average of close to 45 in the format shouldn’t have any critics in the first place. But that’s a discussion for another day. For now, one has to applaud this great Dhawan comeback.

Dhawan's love affair with ICC tournaments

Sample these numbers: At the time of writing Shikhar Dhawan has scored 1046 runs with 5 hundreds and 4 half-centuries in 16 ICC ODI tournament matches. He is now the fastest to score 1000 runs in ICC One-Day International tournaments, beating the great Sachin Tendulkar who reached the landmark in 18 matches. Sourav Ganguly, Herschelle Gibbs and Mark Waugh required 20 innings to breach that mark. Now these are some impressive names and the fact that Dhawan has overtaken them in such an emphatic fashion speaks volumes about his abilities.

It was the 2013 Champions Trophy in England, incidentally, where Dhawan first made a distinct impression. He ended the tournament as the highest run-scorer with 363 runs in 5 matches and was one of the chief factors for India’s fantastic title-winning run in the edition. Dhawan followed this performance with an excellent show in the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand where he scored 412 runs in 8 matches with 2 hundreds and a fifty and was the fifth-highest scorer of the tournament.

Clearly, Dhawan is a big-tournament player and relishes this format. You simply cannot fault him for the big numbers he has produced in prestigious ICC ODI events and whether one likes him or not, he has surely made his case.

Improved game and exuding confidence

Shikhar Dhawan was never really technically sound like a Virat Kohli and neither did he have the languid class of a Rohit Sharma. But what he did have was lots of confidence and an ability to make big runs. Like most left-handers, he was always fluent through the off-side but had issues on the leg side.

On his return one can see a marked difference in Dhawan’s approach; not so much in his technique but in his gait and overall demeanor. The opener is exuding confidence and has put a price tag in his wicket. His feet are moving well, his leg-side play is much better and he is getting behind the ball superbly.

When Dhawan’s downfall had begun, he was falling too many times cutting the ball to point and backward point. But at present, there is an assuredness about him and he also appears to have worked on his timing and finding the right ball to hit.

All these traits augurs well for the batsman’s future and by the looks of things, we may well see a more complete and consistent Dhawan in the days to come.

Presenting a happy dilemma for Indian cricket

With Shikhar Dhawan’s terrific show in the Champions Trophy the question arises as to what happens to KL Rahul when he returns from injury. The young Indian opener has been extremely prolific for India across formats and was being seen as the next big thing for Indian cricket.

With a lot of ODI matches lined up for India in the following months, the Indian team management is likely to be in a fix on who to play and who to leave out. Because there is no way Dhawan can be ignored now. He has well and truly laid his stake on the opener’s slot.

Regardless, this is a happy dilemma and this healthy competition would ensure that both the openers are on their feet and raring to go.

The main point here, though, is that whether or not Shikhar Dhawan goes on to continue his rich form in the upcoming seasons, he has shown that a grand comeback should never be ruled out: whether in sport or in life.

 

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