Every time there is heavy criticism Shikhar Dhawan proves there is life in the old dog yet — the story of his cricketing life in the big league.
Even in the build-up to the World Cup in 2015, there were whispers that he was losing his touch with the bat and may not last long. By Jove it’s been more than five years since and he is still relevant, especially in white-ball cricket.
In the last two matches for Delhi Capitals in IPL 2020, he has shown he is still one of the best batsmen in India. Against a terrific bowling line-up against Mumbai Indians the left hander carried his bat with a 52-ball 69 and last evening against Rajasthan Royals he smashed a match-winning 33-ball 57.
And all this amid heavy criticism that he is not doing enough and that his powers are waning.
The problem with cricket fans in India is they have stopped appreciating good, quality batting. Thanks to the IPL, they have started appreciating an uncontrolled six off the edge of the bat much more than a well-timed shot, hit right from the screws past the point fieldsman for a four.
One really feels bad for a batsman like Dhawan, no?
For some months now there is a strong demand from fans that Rishabh Pant should be dropped from the national team. Sanju Samson, his rival for the spot, sensing the mood fuelled that demand with breathtaking knocks in the first couple of matches for Rajasthan. But it wasn’t long before he fell apart at the seams with a string of poor performances.
Under pressure from fans to match MS Dhoni, both have resorted to an over-aggressive batting approach, not understanding that to increase their shelf life as an international batsman it’s important to learn the nitty-gritty of batting: how to pace the innings with singles and doubles and wait for the bad balls to hit fours or sixes.
There is also a lot of misconception about Dhoni being only a power-hitter. There is total amnesia in regard to his innings-building talent. And that aspect of his batting was actually what made him the legend he is today. The long and short of it is: it’s just not possible to sustain on big shots in international cricket or any form of competitive cricket for that matter.
Both players should actually take lessons from Dhawan who tackled world-class bowlers like Jofra Archer, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah, Ben Stokes, and James Pattinson successfully with proper, commonsensical batting in the last two matches.
Not just as a batsman, when Delhi captain Shreyas Iyer had to go off the field after a diving mishap, Dhawan stepped into the breach and took the captaincy level several notches up. He looked undeterred by the Samson-Stokes partnership and used his bowlers opportunely. The way he encouraged debutant pacer Tushar Deshpande through tough overs towards the end is a perfect testimony to his being sympathetic and empathetic.
Dhawan may give one the impression that he is casual through his Bhangra dancing on social media and thigh-fives after catches but don’t get fooled. In actuality, he is a brilliant, hard-working cricketer who is mindful of the challenges in competitive cricket and accordingly, he goes about his business.
Now that the pitches, by all accounts, are slowing down in the UAE, Dhawan looks all set to make his presence felt more than ever before.
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