Shikhar Dhawan has been in and out of the Indian Test side and has been given an extended run by the selectors despite some poor performances. But just when time seemed to have run out for the left-hander, with Murali Vijay and Lokesh Rahul becoming India's first-choice openers, Dhawan made a massive claim to dislodge one of the two by smashing his fifth Test century on Day 1 of the first Test against Sri Lanka at the Galle International Stadium on Wednesday. The 31-year-old's three-figure put India in a dominant position. Dhawan was left hurt after being dropped from the Indian Test team but says he remained confident of making his way back into the longest format sooner than later. The left-hander scored a career-best 190 off 168 balls on the first day of the first Test against Sri Lanka to guide India to 399/3 at stumps. After day's play, Dhawan recalled the time when he was not part of the Test team.
"When I had that lean patch, I knew that if I wasn't going to score runs, I could get out of the side. Of course, I felt that pressure at that moment and when I got out of the Test side, it hurt me," said Dhawan.
"But then, I moved on and I started playing domestic cricket for Delhi and I was enjoying myself there. One thing about me is that I don't like to be sad all the time. I like to be happy and so I was enjoying myself over there and knew that if things have to come, they will come my way.
"I don't want to run around things too much. I am going to keep doing my work and follow my process. I love doing my fitness drills and work on my skill level. I knew if it has to come, it will come."
Dhawan was not part of the original squad but was brought in after an injured Murali Vijay pulled out of the series last minute.
"My plans were to go to Melbourne and spend time with my family, do training and get fit for the ODI series. I was in Hong Kong actually, on holiday, and from there I flew back to India and joined the team. "That was my plan, but I think destiny had a different plan for me. I am happy and thankful to God," said the opener.
"I was happy, of course, to make a comeback to the Test side. Unfortunately, Vijay wasn't fit. I had a good run before this Test series (in the Champions Trophy) and I just came with the same mindset and the same confidence. I did the same process in the nets and got myself ready for this match."
This was Dhawan's second hundred at the Galle International Stadium after he scored a hundred here in the first Test on the 2015 tour as well.
Overall, it was his fifth Test hundred wherein he put on a mammoth 253 runs for the second wicket with Cheteshwar Pujara and blew away the Sri Lankan attack.
"Special about this venue is that I am scoring runs over here. So that is a special thing for me," he said.
"My debut innings was very much like this one. Even against Bangladesh (in 2015), I scored a quick hundred over there. But this was a bit better than that Bangladesh one, I think," said the centurion.
Despite his great showing in the Champions Trophy, he was dropped from the original Test squad as the selectors retained Abhinav Mukund as the backup opener to KL Rahul and Murali Vijay. Injury to the latter and viral fever to the former meant that both Dhawan and Mukund got to play here, but only one of them made it count.
Indian skipper Virat Kohli had predicted a placid track for this first Test, and Dhawan made full use of the chance to bat first on this Galle wicket.
The highlight of his innings was how he handled the Lankan spinners, punishing them with regularity on the leg side as he brought out the sweep effectively.
"The wicket was also good and there wasn't much spin over there. But it still got true bounce and good pace from the wicket. There wasn't much of turn, so I thought I can attack more on spinners and I have opportunity to score runs. I saw it that way and I planned it that way. I feel that I batted well too," said Dhawan.
In the end, he fell just 10 runs short of his maiden double-century, despite improving on his highest Test score. Even then, he wasn't too disappointed with the effort he had put in on the first day of the series.
"Of course I was disappointed that I got out for 190. I would have loved to have scored 200, maybe even 300 but it was a hundred runs ahead. I hadn't thought about that. But more than the score though, I got out at the wrong time.
"It was the last over before tea and the way I was playing, I was confident that I could clear mid-off. I was almost hitting a boundary per over. I was in that zone and I backed myself. Unfortunately, it didn't go my way. So I am a bit disappointed that I couldn't score 200 but happy and thankful to God that I scored 190 runs," Dhawan signed off.
(With PTI Inputs)