When Shikhar Dhawan came out to bat for the first time in Test cricket on Saturday, little did he know the number of records he would go on to break. The 27-year-old has now the fastest hundred on debut in Test cricket, he overtook GR Viswanath's 137 as the highest score by an Indian on Test debut, and with the left-hander unbeaten on 185, who knows how many more records he goes on to break.
He received his Test cap from perhaps the greatest cricketer India has ever produced. The wait for the Delhi boy has been a long one - 81 first-class matches, 5679 runs and 16 centuries. His debut came at the expense of Virender Sehwag, who was dropped for the final 2 Tests after a string of poor scores.
NDTV expert Sunil Gavaskar pointed out that the 'wait' Dhawan had to endure while in queue for Test debut, has worked in the southpaw's favour.
"The wait has made him hungry for runs. I was a bit nervous in the last over of the day when he went down the pitch on the first ball of that over. He was looking to get to 200 there and then. But tomorrow will be a completely new day for him.
"It was fabulous. All the time he has spent on the sidelines, honing his craft, getting the determination, has certainly worked for Shikhar. A lot of players make their debut early at 20-21 but he has been playing first-class cricket for a long time. And that experience has certainly come in handy. He has the range of shots, he used them very well and the placement was good. Even his understanding with Murali Vijay and the way they helped each other is very good for Indian cricket," said an animated Gavaskar.
Sunny, who himself was a methodical batsman and the original 'Little Master', was extremely happy by the way Shikhar has responded to Test cricket but also advised him to bring in more patience in his game.
"When you get that call, you might get just that one chance. In Indian cricket, there are so many players knocking on the selectors' doors. You have got to make the most of that chance and Shikhar certainly has. What this 185 has done for him is that it gives him at least 4-5 Test matches to fail, if I may say so. He has been a limited overs player, so the patience factor was always the question mark. He though, has shown the patience to wait for the right ball and the hunger to score too. The range of shots was never a problem.
"Because Test cricket is a five-day game, you have the time to build the innings. You can have a vertical take-off sometimes but it does not happen in Tests always. He will have to learn to be patient when the bowlers are fresh, the ball is new, when you don't know about the pitch (batting first). But saying that, Shikhar has had a hard time. Even getting into the Delhi side was tough for him with Viru and Gauti around. Sometimes it is good when you are a late bloomer and what a bloomer he is," said Sunny.
Former Australian cricketer and a dashing batsman himself, Dean Jones, too lauded Dhawan's efforts on debut while exclaiming the 'delay' of him getting into the Indian Test side.
"He was just awesome. There is something about left-handers that makes them look elegant, just like David Gower.
"He is very strong through point, covers. Good off the backfoot and used his feet pretty well when Australia tried to hound him. he is a special player. Also so good on the eye. How come they have not played him before. He loves it and wanted just one opportunity. Credit to Murali Vijay too as this is the third highest opening partnership for India," said Jones.
When asked whether Aussies have gone soft (Dhawan was technically run-out before facing a ball), Gavaskar praised Australia's attitude under Michael Clarke.
"Yes, technically he was out. This is what I like about this Australia team - they play the game hard but fair too. Pattinson shaking Pujara's hand, everyone coming and shaking Dhawan's hand is nice to see," said a happy Gavaskar.
Looking ahead in the Mohali Test, both Sunny and Deano categorically dismissed Australia's chances for a victory while giving India an outside chance.
"If Indians continue to bat at this rat, who knows whether they can get a solid lead of 150-200. Australia have not batted well against spin in the series so far and that was evident in Chennai and Hyderabad. An Indian victory could still happen but a draw is the most likely," said Sunny.
Even Deano echoed the Indian's views. "Aussies winning is out of the question. 196 overs left in the game - mainly a draw is likely but India can snatch a victory too," he said.
Dhawan may have already won the heart of his team-mates with this knock.. but with the likes Gambhir & Sehwag raring to comeback, his real Test only starts now!
Story first published on: Saturday, 16 March 2013 21:53 IST