India v Australia, 3rd Test, Mohali, 3rd day March 16, 2013

Dhawan's calm contempt blows away Australia

Shikhar Dhawan didn't miss a moment during his ruthless century on debut to show up the Australian attack for what it was
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For the better part of his turbo-charged, fireworks display of a debut century, which shredded records and caused a stir, Shikhar Dhawan showed no signs of nerve or panic. He raced through the 60s to his 90s in 15 balls as if he was weaving his way through traffic in his hometown Delhi, with music on top, thumping volume and the sunglasses on. On 91, Dhawan edged Peter Siddle past a diving gully's hands, but his cool stayed unrattled.

On 99, though, there came a flash. Of anxiety or desperation, of what looked like the stark hunger that must have kept him going through first-class cricket. Dhawan push-dropped one from Siddle, called for a run that never was and charged. It was a blind, suicidal mini-mission that had "oh-no" written all over it.

For close to nine years following his stunning performances in under-19 cricket, Dhawan had waited for his Test debut. In Mohali, he couldn't bear to wait even one more ball to do what, until today, he must have only dreamt of. As the throw was fired through, Dhawan's full-length dive for the crease was less panther and more hopeful pilgrim. The ball shot past the stumps and Dhawan went from being flat on his face and onto his feet in seconds.

The helmet was pulled off and from under it emerged a grin larger than the stadium. Dhawan threw his head back and arms into the air. No matter where his career goes from here, on this one afternoon, Shikhar Dhawan was, to himself and those watching, king of the world.

On Saturday, his innings of 185 not out was India's prime driver of what can only be called batting on speed. Dhawan's own signature is now in the history books, the fastest Test century on debut, and the highest score by an Indian on Test debut. It has opened up possibilities for India in the Test, with time and a wearing pitch now on their side.

Australia know that in the course of two hours, they were pushed on to thin ice by Dhawan and the best that they can do in Mohali is draw the game. Dhawan's century, in its tempo and silken ferocity, also turned into an odd homage to Virender Sehwag, the Delhi senior man whose place he has taken.

India ended the day on 283 for no loss in reply to Australia's 408. For the second Test in a row, M Vijay, batting on 83, found a sedate, lower gear and allowed Dhawan to have his moment in the sun. After stumps Dhawan said that, despite his ear-ringed, poker face, he had in fact felt anxious, "No, I was nervous, but you didn't realise it. No, I was certainly nervous, but I wasn't as nervous as I used to be earlier."

Until today, Dhawan's presence in the field had been virtually invisible. He misfielded the first ball that came his way on Friday and as non-striker, during the lone over India had to bat before lunch, had wandered out of his crease. The ball slipped out of Mitchell Starc's hand, hit the stumps, with Dhawan a foot out of his ground. A smiling Michael Clarke had made some jokey third-umpire signs and the over then formally began. Had the Aussies appealed, Dhawan might or might not have been deemed safe by the umpires, but it would still have been a nervous start.*

When his first run came, a single through covers, his partner Vijay came over to acknowledge and reassure. On television, Ravi Shastri's voice was sardonic, "First for me. Never seen anybody being congratulated for scoring one run."

Over the next two hours, Dhawan settled in and produced an innings that ended up being a first in many ways for most watching. To the Australian bowling, his batting was a geometry lesson in contempt. He was assured on his front foot, had enough time to adjust his shots and find precise gaps in the field. When he was given a short ball, he played the pull efficiently, without hesitation. The off side was packed, but to Dhawan, the fielders were either woven through or zipped past.

By the time he got to his century, Dhawan had scored 84 runs off boundaries, but his first shots in the air came only after he'd gone past 100. Dhawan stepped out to medium-pacers and spinners alike and carved up sections of the ground as if it were cake to be eaten. Even the unfailingly polite and considerate VVS Laxman couldn't contain himself, saying Australia had an "average bowling attack." Dhawan didn't miss a moment to let it show. For all Australia's good intentions and plans (and this is without homework jokes), Dhawan showed them their place in these conditions and on this pitch.

He was severe on Moises Henriques, hitting cover drives on the up, walking out against a short ball before drilling it square. Xavier Doherty got the heaviest treatment, 18 runs in his fourth over, turning the bowler's plans inside out. He was driven against the spin, then reverse-swept when Clarke moved out of slip, dispatched past three men through the covers and then paddle-swept to the boundary again.

Dhawan's Delhi team-mates are cackling with delight. Old pro Rajat Bhatia says he can tell how Dhawan's innings are going to go from the first few balls. Immaculate defence, blocking and plodding is a bad sign. If he looks to get the strike moving, taking singles and playing strokes, things are looking good. In Mohali, Dhawan took three balls to get off strike and had hit his first boundary off Siddle off his sixth ball. It had to be his day.

* 6.48pm GMT, March 16: The copy has been updated after reviewing the laws of the game.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • CricketMaan on March 18, 2013, 15:07 GMT

    Poor Dhawan, jinxed by all praise will now miss Test cricket for almost 9 months until SA tour. His only hope now is India A tour to SA prior to the Tests. Selectors will have a BIG job before the SA tour, with Vijay and Dhawan performing well albiet against an average attack in helpful home conditions, they have shown some character in these innings. It would be very unfair to keep questioning thier ability against Steyn, Morkel and Philander when they have not yet played. Rather we should back them. If Gauti or Viru perform in domestic matches they might still push Dhawan, Vijay out of the XI. If Vijay and Dhawan along with likes of Mukund, Rahane are pursued then with so many overseas tours, India will get to benefit. I simply hope that India A team has Dhawan, Vijay, Mukund, Rahane, Jadeja, Tiwary, Rayude, Ishant, Umesh, Dinda, BK, Ohja all included as it would be a good for them prior to the test series

  • sailorsupreme on March 17, 2013, 16:11 GMT

    A delightful article. The desperate dash, the dive and getting up in a flash to celebrate with a huge grin will remain etched in our memories for ever. When the photos came in the sports column the next day it was as if we were looking at a child who was celebrating his triumph. The twirling of his moustache as he was returning to the pavillion was an endearing sight. How could such precocious talent have been kept under wraps for so long? The kid is already 27! Kudos to Sandeep Patil for unearthing such an explosive talent. I hope we also give chances to the likes of Rayudu and Unmukt quickly. When Aaron and Umesh return the pace attack will be be bolstered.Shami Ahmed and Pravven Kumar should find a place too. These guys will be invaluable in South Africa.

  • cric_freak2012 on March 17, 2013, 8:07 GMT

    @Nampally: I find your comments prejudiced.what made you criticize dhoni for benching dhawan and backing vijay.Vijay has also come from a strong domestic performance and on top of that he has already got hundred in 2008 against australia when the likes of hilfenhaus stuart clarke and mitch johnson were ruling the roost and if you feel he is not a opener having after scoring 3 hundreds against the quickies of aussies, god help your prejudiced mind.most funny statement that i have read is thisi dont endorse vijay as an opener, who are you to endorse for godsake.the second comment that he was lucky cmon. if you are talking about technical capabilities, sehwag and gambhir are nowhere the technically most correct batsmen. sehwag pokes, plays cut, drives all in the air. gambhir pokes, plays it on to his stumps. how many times have you seen gambhir bowled played on. so please analyse ur statements before spewing it out on a public forum. all said and done i still agree to ur remark on ojha

  • Simoc on March 17, 2013, 3:23 GMT

    The downside for Dhawan is that their could hardly be anything better than this innings no matter how many he plays. It is as good as it gets. Starc never bowled that first ball so it was a non-event. You can't be out to a ball that was never in play.

  • Hiteshvara on March 17, 2013, 3:05 GMT

    Finally some positive and optimistic article from Sharda after long long time..I think she herself got fed up of criticising Indian cricket..So i guess some monumental(once in a life time) innings by indian batsman will only make her happy ..Thats a great achievement in itself by Dhawan in making sharda write some positive notes..

  • crkt4evr on March 17, 2013, 2:33 GMT

    this is our problem too much appreciation and too much criticism....agree that media do it for their personal interests but why are fans with own minds doing this? he absolutely deserves all appreciation but dont put too much pressure and have lots of expectations and feel let down later....this is his debut let him have a fair run!

  • cricmatters on March 16, 2013, 22:44 GMT

    Unmukt Chand and Perwez Rasool should be given an opportunity sooner than later to prove their mettle. India should not keep going back to Yuvi, Raina and Rohit Sharma who have been given umpteen chances. There is lot of talent and hunger in some of the younger players who will improve and cement their place in the Test side if given a chance. India must now focus on building a good Test team and not be content by just winning in one day and T20 formats. Credit goes to the Selectors for weeding out the non-performers from the Team. Hope the BCCI will continue to support the bold decisions from the selectors and most importantly focus on building a good Test side for the future.

  • Sunjay007 on March 16, 2013, 20:45 GMT

    Behind the tag -opener, all-rounder etc., there is mortal human. Young fragile psyche can be molded into great players by proper grooming. whether it is Pujara, Jadeja, Vijay or Dhawan. I believe they were brought into the playing 16 and then persisted with to give them the confidence that has made them the pall bearers of the next great Indian team. Now we need to find a replacement for Sachin and the transformation would be close to complete!

  • popcorn on March 16, 2013, 19:51 GMT

    There was no need for Michael Clarke to show such generosity. We should have appealed when Dhawan had wandered out and Starc's ball hit the stumps. No quarter given,no quarter asked. Ed Cowan was given run out when the batsman's hit was stopped by Dale Steyn,and hit the stumps. Cowan was out of his crease. Michael Clarke is a softie.

  • Kameps on March 16, 2013, 19:22 GMT

    @nampally don't feel you only have common sense, captain and selectors are watching the players closer than you, not only previous stats give you good players. There are many players who have good track record in ranjis also failed in national team. We can't Just judge there ability only by stats from cricinfo..