What's the secret of Dhawan's big-event mastery?

Shikhar Dhawan keeps a close eye on the ball AFP

After reaching three figures against Sri Lanka - it was his tenth ODI century and third in the Champions Trophy - Shikhar Dhawan slapped his raised left thigh like a pehelwan who has dominated an opponent in the akhara. Sri Lanka's wayward bowling allowed Dhawan to settle down and finish on a powerful note to help India bring up what was at that point the biggest total in the tournament.

Sri Lanka, though, chased down that total with a daring display of batting that relegated Dhawan's innings to something of a footnote. Dhawan, though, wasn't done. He returned to the Oval to notch up his third 50-plus score in as many matches in the tournament, which was enough to move him to the top of the run charts with 271 at 90.33.

This is the third successive global ODI tournament, starting from the 2013 Champions Trophy, in which Dhawan has been India's leading man. How does he manage to hit purple patches in these big events? It is an intriguing question that does not have one all-encompassing answer.

Dhawan's biggest strength is his temperament. Despite his technical weaknesses, particularly against the moving ball, he is determined to hang in there and does not let his shortcomings dissuade him. He keeps things simple whether it be in training or in a match. People who have followed Dhawan closely give him credit for his clarity of thought.

Technically, Dhawan has made two key changes to his game. Experts note that he has tightened his trigger movements. Earlier, he used to have a slightly pronounced crouch in his set-up. At times batsmen are over-keen in their trigger movements, which could leave them unbalanced while playing their strokes. Dhawan is now more still at the crease and is happy to wait for the ball.

Since he stays next to the line of the ball rather than getting right behind it, Dhawan tends to score a lot more square of the wicket, or behind square, than down the ground. You will not see too many straight drives from him.

But while he hasn't changed that basic technique, he is playing a lot later, ensuring that his points of contact are much closer to his body than before. Where he used to hit a lot towards cover and extra-cover four years ago - which meant his meeting points were in front of his body - he has been playing closer to his body this time around, and hitting more towards point, backward point and third man. There was nothing wrong, per se, with the earlier technique, but bowlers could induce an edge if Dhawan erred even marginally.

In this tournament, Dhawan has been playing the ball later, a big, conscious change he has brought into his game. Given the absence of swing and seam movement in this tournament, he has been able to use the pace of the bowler a lot more.

Dhawan might not have fully found his feet in the Test and T20 formats. Probably his vulnerabilities are exposed to a greater scale in Tests where bowlers get more time to probe them. Dhawan also does not have a complete range of strokes, especially down the ground, which could be a hindrance in T20s.

When it comes to ODIs, however, he has found a successful method. Perhaps it helps him not to be a 360-degree player here, because that could cause a batsman to play too many shots. Dhawan instead trusts his game and understands it really well. There are grey areas certainly, but Dhawan does not get bogged down by doubt. A big heart, a solid temperament and clarity of mind have combined to help Dhawan notch up good performances in challenging conditions in the biggest tournaments. It has allowed him keep a more technically sound batsman like Ajinkya Rahane on the bench.

On Wednesday, having finished batting in the nets, Dhawan took a few hit-me-balls from India's fielding coach R Sridhar. This has become customary for Dhawan, who likes to just time the ball for a short time before he packs his bags. While he was doing that, batting coach Sanjay Bangar asked Dhawan if he wanted to come back to the main nets and face some proper throwdowns. Dhawan declined. He was content with his routine. Keeping it simple works for him.