Dhawan: India's shining glory
Over time, Dhawan has proven his consistency during international face-offs. His elevation to the A+ category of players has come after years of struggle, effort and perseverence, Shikhar Dhawan discusses in an interview with Aditya K Halder.
There's an arduous ongoing competition for the opening slot in Team India at the moment. Players including Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Murali Vijay and KL Rahul are fighting tooth and nail to find themselves a spot at the pinnacle of the top-order batting line-up. Time and again, four of them have proved their mantle at the highest levels of the game; but, perceptibly, there's only space for two.
It goes without saying that it takes strenuous effort to be an opener for the Men in Blue. To put it into figures, it takes 2477 runs – marred by six centuries and 14 half tons – within a year to be a part of the exclusive opening pair. And, these palpable statistics, in fact, belong to flamboyant opener Shikhar Dhawan, who consummated those figures across all three formats of the game. Probably the very reason why the Board for Control of Cricket in India rewarded the Delhi batsman with an annual contract of Rs seven crore — giving the 32-year-old India international a stupendous 1300 per cent hike in a new A+ category.
Dhawan believes he owes it to his consistent performance this season. "Absolutely! I did really well for the Indian team recently, I have been playing all three formats and maybe that's why BCCI included me in the A+ category. I wasn't thinking about it that much as my focus was completely on cricket but it came and I am thankful to God that BCCI rewarded my efforts," said a smiling Dhawan, who endorses Alcis Sports, a homegrown athleisure brand.
However, the presence of a certain leader in Virat Kohli, who has been leading the team from the front, has often overshadowed his compatriot with his run galore. While Dhawan aggregated a nifty 323 runs in the recently concluded ODI series in South Africa, the skipper dwarfed his teammate by accumulating 558 runs in the same series which Team India won 5-1. Even so, Dhawan doesn't think his aggressive captain overshadows him. Instead sees him as an exemplary to follow.
"I don't feel I am overshadowed by Kohli because every individual player is different. In fact, I look up to him, the way he performs and remains consistent; I want to be as consistent as him because that's how you always remain at the top of your game. He has always scores runs when the team needs him and he has always been leading from the front. I feel delivering for the team, and not for yourself, is very important and that's what he does. I think I have managed to attain that and I am really happy that I have achieved some consistency in my form this season," he elaborated. Recently, after concluding the Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka, Suresh Raina posted a picture on his Instagram account showing Dhawan and Kolhi photobombing in a candid selfie. The photo was a reflection of the camaraderie that exists between the players.
"We (Dhawan and Kohli) come from the same place (Delhi), so we understand each other's mindset. I think that helped us understand each other well and become good friends. On the top of that, we respect each other as cricketers and always appreciate one another on our performances," he said.
Adding the class of Rohit Sharma to the duo, on the field, it forms a Kafkaesque combination for opposing bowlers. The terrific trio rose to prominence in the ICC Champions Trophy last year when they orchestrated 883 of the 1220 runs scored by the entire team. There has been no looking back since then as they have been piling upon the misery of opposing teams, a series at a time. Dhawan underlies experience as the key factor behind the trio's success.
"We guys have done well because we have been around together for a few years now. We have good experience on our side and the feeling of being a pack and relying on each other helps. But, things could change quickly with an injury or a dry patch. So I hope we will keep performing at that level for years to come," he stated.
Rohit (as captain) and Dhawan (vice-captain) recently led a team without big names in the tri-nation T20 series in Sri Lanka (which also included Bangladesh as the third nation) and returned home with the glittering Nidahas Trophy, owing to a last-ball six by the charismatic Dinesh Karthik. In the absence of experienced players, Rohit pinned his entire faith on Dhawan to provide India with a good start during the series and the swashbuckling batsman shone one gritty knock after another. Dhawan top scored with 198 runs, scoring at a staggering strike rate of 145 plus.
"It was a big motivation for all of us; it was quite a young team that lacked enough experience in international cricket. Kudos to the boys for putting up a strong performance and holding their nerves during those nail-biting matches. On a personal level, I was happy too as I continued from where I left in South Africa. I was able to score at a good strike rate and the tournament served as good preparatory series for upcoming IPL," he said.
However, it wasn't always a walk in the park for Dhawan, who struggled to score runs during the Test series, which experts felt India could have won with some more preparation time. Retaining his opening role in the long format, Dhawan played all but one match and could garner a paltry 32 runs from two innings and was subsequently stripped out of the starting XI. Dhawan revealed he didn't lose hope despite a poor start.
"Of course it was disappointing to not to play much in the Test but I didn't lose hope as it is a part and parcel of the game. I waited for my chance and kept preparing well in the nets. Later, I was fitter and stronger as I spent more time on the net to become habituated to the conditions. Thankfully, it turned out well in the ODI series after that," he explained.
The ODI triumph in South Africa has unequivocally enhanced the confidence of the side as Dhawan said they look forward to the series in England and win it. "The England series means a lot to us. It's always challenging to play in English conditions and they (England) are a great team in those seaming conditions. We couldn't win the Test series in South Africa but we came close. We will hope to change that in England," he confidently asserted.
IPL is again around the corner but Dhawan is not thinking about the premium tournament yet as he looks forward to spending quality time with his wife Ayesha Mukherjee and kids Zoravar, Rhea, and Aliya. "I have played in the IPL for 11 years now so there's nothing that I am going to change. Before that, I am eagerly looking forward to going to Australia and spending eight days with my family there."
"Finding time from the busy calendar for the family often becomes difficult for a player; we have to sacrifice a lot especially for me as my family stays in Australia. So it becomes important to spend as much time as possible with the family in the limited time I have," Dhawan concluded with a smile.