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Sports Home Cricket Features Wasn't using my brains, only my talent: Shikhar Dhawan

Wasn't using my brains, only my talent: Shikhar Dhawan

The next Team India star, surely? Well, not quite. Even as Suresh Raina and Robin Uthappa, his World Cup mates, made the cut, Dhawan remained in the domestic circuit, on the periphery of the Indian team, a regular with India A squads but only rarely given a break at the top level.

Shyama Dasgupta  |  Last updated on Thursday, 10 January 2013 16:24 Print font size - +

It's not always that cricketers who show immense promise as youngsters graduate to becoming successful players when they grow up. A Sachin Tendulkar is an exception to the rule. Shikhar Dhawan, on the other hand, falls in the 'rule' category, except that over the past year, culminating in the match-winning century for Delhi against England on Tuesday (January 8), Dhawan has been doing his best to become an exception as well.

Think about it. He played in the Under-19 World Cup in 2004 in Bangladesh, ending the tournament as the leading run-getter with 505 runs – still an Under-19 World Cup record — at 84.16 with three centuries. That hastened his inclusion in the Delhi Ranji Trophy team and he responded by scoring 461 runs in his debut season.

The next Team India star, surely? Well, not quite. Even as Suresh Raina and Robin Uthappa, his World Cup mates, made the cut, Dhawan remained in the domestic circuit, on the periphery of the Indian team, a regular with India A squads but only rarely given a break at the top level.

"It was disappointing. But when I got the chance in a one-dayer, I scored a duck on debut (against Australia, October 2010) and then I got a fifty in the West Indies (Port of Spain, June 2011), but not much more," says Dhawan in a chat with Wisden India. "I didn't do well in the other games. Maybe if I had scored another fifty there, I would have been in the team for the England series that followed."

Someone else in his place might have chucked it all up or turned bitter. Dhawan, instead, waited for his opportunities and chose to change himself as a person and as a player. "I realised that it's not only about talent and ability, but consistency. I decided to go deeper into my game," says Dhawan. "Whatever I do – in the nets or in matches – I write down on my phone so that I can remember my thought processes for each day. I have been doing it for the last year and it actually helps. I have all my history with me now at my fingertips. When I do badly … I can't lie to myself."

It has clearly helped. In recent months, Dhawan had scores of 99 not out, 152 and 61 in the Challenger Series, following it up with efforts of 101, 50, 121 and 37 in the Duleep Trophy. Earlier, in the 2011 Irani Cup, he totted up scores of 177 and 155. And in the last two Indian Premier League seasons, representing the now-defunct Deccan Chargers, Dhawan finished with aggregates of 400 and 569 runs.

Those who have seen him play through this period talk about a much calmer Dhawan, a Dhawan who doesn't try to look for a boundary off every delivery.

"There was no problem with my attitude. I just think I was immature," explains Dhawan. "They say a batsman reaches his peak between 26 and 28, and I am 27 now. I realised that I was not using my brains but only my talent. When it comes to stroke-players like me, we don't realise how to plan our innings. Nowadays, I am focussing a lot more on other things. I know my game a lot better now. I have become a lot more consistent now."

It's certainly an opportune time to have struck such a consistent vein, with Virender Sehwag dropped from the Indian One-Day International team and Gautam Gambhir not quite in peak run-scoring form either. M Vijay, Abhinav Mukund and Dhawan are all in the radar of the selectors for the longer version, even if Ajinkya Rahane has stolen the march when it comes to the limited-overs format.

"I can only score runs when I get an opportunity," says Dhawan, and he certainly did the other day against England. "If I don't make the Indian team, then I don't make the Indian team. I would love to be selected, of course, but if I am not, I will be sad and disappointed but not depressed. I will still have other places to play and score runs, like the Ranji Trophy and the IPL."

The new, improved and much more consistent Dhawan does appear to have mellowed a lot. Whether he can add to his five One-Day Internationals and one Twenty20 International is a moot point, but even if he’s not in the Indian team in the near future, he has done enough to keep the opening options in the Indian team on their toes.

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Story first published on: Thursday, 10 January 2013 16:09

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