India A in South Africa 2013 August 13, 2013

'Have never seen Dhawan bat like this before'


Ever since he cracked 187 off 174 against Australia on Test debut in March, Shikhar Dhawan has been the hot topic for the year 2013. And he keeps doing stuff that keeps making him a hotter topic. Man of the Series in the Champions Trophy. Another hundred in Zimbabwe. Now, a 248 in a one-dayer in South Africa. How is he doing what he is doing? How is it different from what he was doing all those years in domestic cricket? How is it different from what he did when he first played for India in 2010? Two men who have watched him closely over the years say that mostly, it is all in the head. Call it what you want - frame of mind, confidence, temperament, mental strength, self-belief; Dhawan's positivity, along with improved shot selection, has translated into this extraordinary comeback, feel Vijay Dahiya and Lalchand Rajput.

Dahiya, the former India and Delhi wicketkeeper, knows Dhawan from his days in junior cricket. He has played with him and later coached him. Was Dhawan always special and just ignored or has something critical fallen into place? Dahiya says he has never come across this avatar of Dhawan before.

"I have not seen him batting before the way he is now, even in the nets," Dahiya told ESPNcricinfo. "That kind of batting display is just phenomenal. There is no comparison. Last year, he had a pretty mediocre Ranji season, if you go by the standards he is setting right now. [Dhawan made 461 runs in 11 innings] which I think is alright for an opener in Indian first-class cricket when you end up playing seven-eight games. He had a fantastic Challenger Trophy [a domestic one-day tournament]. But what he is doing right now is something really special."

After a short, unsuccessful stint with the Indian one-day team, Dhawan was out for a couple of years before the sensational Test debut against Australia. Lalchand Rajput, the former India batsman and now India A coach, says that one knock has generated so much confidence, it continues to feed itself and extend Dhawan's streak.

"One good innings against Australia in the Test match ... " Rajput said. "Cricket is a game of confidence. If you are confident, you bat like a dream. Plus, playing the way he did in England in the Champions Trophy ... He has gone from strength to strength and is batting at his peak now."

Dahiya concurs, saying not much has changed in terms of ability. "I think it is more mental," Dahiya said. "I'll say that skill-wise, he was the same. What I see now is that mentally he has become very strong. He is backing himself. He is extremely confident, which plays such an important role in any sport. He is playing all the shots against all bowlers in any conditions. That shows how confident he is.

"Every time you see him batting, it looks like a display of cricket intelligence. A lot of players who make runs sometimes end up playing shots as if they are millionaires and don't care about the value of their wickets. If you look at him, though, he is beautifully stretching his purple patch and making it count.

"Also, I don't think he is carrying any baggage. That is something you can't see from the outside yet - the baggage of expectations. Every time he goes out there, he starts beautifully, understands what is required, and goes on from there. He takes his time to build and then flourishes."

"I think it is more mental. I'll say that skill-wise, he was the same. What I see now is that mentally he has become very strong. He is backing himself. He is extremely confident, which plays such an important role in any sport. He is playing all the shots against all bowlers in any conditions. Shows how confident he is."
Vijay Dahiya, the former India wicketkeeper

Rajput had witnessed a very different Dhawan from close quarters just a year ago, when he was coach on the A side's tour of the West Indies, where the opener averaged 7.50 in the unofficial Tests. Rajput believes Dhawan has used the time away from the national side to tighten his game.

"It is not only mental, it is about selecting the right balls [to go after] as well," Rajput said. "He has matured now and is never satisfied. He wants to do well every game. Look at his conversion rate. If he passes 50 or 60, he gets a hundred, in Champions Trophy, in Zimbabwe, now as well, big hundreds.

"In the West Indies [in 2012], he used to play too many shots too early, and as an opener, that is taking too much risk. He always had the shots but not the selection, but now he knows what shot to play and what to not play. He has really developed control over his off-side game."

Dhawan's form has lasted half a year now. How long before international bowlers find a chink somewhere? Dahiya does not think that moment, although inevitable, has arrived yet. "Everyone will always have shortcomings," Dahiya said. "It is for the opposition to figure them out. Right now, he has played against almost all the top sides and it does not look like people have sorted something out. We saw in Zimbabwe in one of the games he got out to a short ball but in the next game he was scoring off them. Again, I will say his frame of mind is brilliant right now."

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • vikraman on August 16, 2013, 13:06 GMT

    we all know shikar dhawan has the talent to make it count at the big stage.. but let us not come into a prematute conclusion about him becoming the greatest ever opening batsman India has ever produced.. two are already there.. one is sunny and the other is sehwag.. Sehwag redefined what opening batsmanship can do.. he is an all time great.. and remember one more thing.. technical brilliance doesn't mean one has to bat like The other all time great Rahul Dravid.. Sehwag is also technically brilliant in being balanced in his strikes.. if you saw his batting, he hit even the good balls from the best bowlers in their prime through utter balance.. and it is not about just the hand eye coordination, the term often used for sloggers.. Sehwag, along with the fab four brought the glory days for Indian cricket.. its their seeds which we are reaping now.

  • Dummy4 on August 14, 2013, 11:52 GMT

    Well, looks like Dhawan is a replacement promise for Sehwag much like how Pujara is a replacement promise for Dravid and Kohli for Tendulkar!!

  • venu on August 14, 2013, 7:09 GMT

    Coming to Shikar. One of my favorite name personally is Shikar. My son born in 2010 and when we listed names for him, Shikar was in the list. When we started dropping the names from the list, I still remember, the reason I told to drop Shikar from the list was Shikar Dhawan. I've followed him from U-19, always thought he is talented but very unlucky. Happy to see him doing very well.

  • venu on August 14, 2013, 6:52 GMT

    I don't understand why people tend to disgrace other players to rate a player of their choice. I remember one tournament in NZ where batsmen from either team was struggling to score a team total of 150 runs and Sehwag was the lone player to score 50s in that series. I think he was the highest scorer in that series from either side. This series was played before 2004 WC. In the 2004 WC, I remember Fleming, NZ skipper quoting of "re-opening the wounds of that series" before IND vs NZ. I've been watching cricket from 1984 and I think that was the series which supported bowlers day-in day-out in all the matches played(Doesn't matter ODIs or tests). This post is not from a Sehwag fan.

  • V. on August 14, 2013, 6:44 GMT

    Sehwag brief: -Highest ODI score ever, -Highest TEST score by an Indian -Only Indian to score a triple century -twice. Please hold on to the edge of your seats, the second innings is yet to be played!

  • Dummy4 on August 14, 2013, 5:59 GMT

    Credit to the selectors for giving an opportunity to Dhawan to explore the International level of cricket. Similarly players like Vijal Zol, Sanju Samson, Unmukt Chand and the likes should be given opportunities to perform at the international level. Though all the players have international experience, its only in the U-19 level. These guys should be given a chance to be part of India A, which helps them to boost their confidence and also allows the selectors to have a backup and rotate the team, as per the requirement.

  • sam on August 14, 2013, 5:31 GMT

    @WonkyBail You may be right. But the first two tests of the Ashes had bone dry pitches as well. In fact only the third one at Manchester was a hard pitch and the fourth one was a typical seaming pitch tough to bat on. It depends on the climate on what kind pitches India get. In 2007 in England, during the wet summer India got dry pitches which did not seam at all (India's weakness seaming pitches). Only swung and reverse swung big and Indian bowlers bowled a lot better than English ones and swung the ball conventionally and reverse both ways a lot more than their English counterparts.

  • Saurabh on August 14, 2013, 5:16 GMT

    It is unfortunate for the cricket lovers that this match was not live on television, but anyone can imagine this innings after watching his debut inning against Australia. It would have been a pure class by a classic batsman…Its more than anything to watch Shikhar Dhawan for cricket lovers as they used to watch Sachin Tendulkar 10 years back. The late arrival of this star player in the international cricket questions the selection committee for their homework…I think there are other players like Sanju Sampson, Unmukt Chand, Naman Ojha have exceptional talent and age with them but their average does not justify their talent and are unable to deliver at the domestic level like Shikhar Dhawan. Somebody from the selection committee needs to recognize them unless its too late and demoralizes the player with time to get into the national side. We are actually fortunate in case of Shikhar Dhawan but cannot be in everyone's case. good luck guys!!! Congratulations Shikhar Dhawan and get going.

  • Sandip on August 14, 2013, 5:13 GMT

    @ Jose Puliampatta

    Well said, man!! well said.....

    All fans here, please don't degrade our past heroes as the king of flat pitches. Yeah, Sehwag is struggling since 2011. He may have played his last Test. But he is one of the the IND players who started dominating on overseas pitches. Remember, What Pat Symcox had said about Sehwag at Bloemfontein on his debut. He served next 10 years for IND. IND has flat pitches???? What about Dhaka, Karachi, Multan, RPS Colombo????? Their national players scoring double & triple....Their fans calling them as legends!!!!!!!!! and we are calling our players ...king of flat pitches??

  • Sandip on August 14, 2013, 4:44 GMT


    I am neither Sehwag nor Dhawan fan but it is a pity to listen from you about Sehwag "the ultimate flat track bully against bad bowlers!"

    In spite of LAST 18 TEST match's DISMAL performance, Sehwag has still better records in home & away conditions than that of Cook, KP & Belly. He is nowhere near the past. His current Test average is still better than these 3. He is still nearly 800 runs ahead of Cook & KP with nearly same amount of Test innings. He scored 10 overseas centuries. He has scored 8 centuries in 38 Tests against SA & AUS. He scored 3 centuries in 19 Tests in SA & AUS. I don't understand how do you say 3 centuries from 50 Tests.

    Btw, the combination of Steyn, Morkel and Philander is not a benchmark for any batsman to prove. Even PAK & AUS have quality attack now. ENG & SL also have average bowling attack these days. Dhawan & co. will have to work against every new challenge. All in all, for these guys, this SA tour will be memorable for long time.