Dhruv Shorey had only played 17 first-class matches when he came out to bat on Friday, but he was already familiar with the requirements of the big stage when he marked his guard with Delhi 1 for 1 in the first over of the Ranji Trophy final. He took charge of the innings with a gritty, unbeaten 123, and spoke with clarity afterwards, like an experienced player who knew exactly what the situation demanded of him.
Shorey rescued Delhi primarily via a partnership of 105 with No. 6 Himmat Singh, also his school friend, and eventually steered them past 250 by stumps. Through all this, Shorey saw his team-mates Nitish Rana, Rishabh Pant and Himmat play attacking strokes even though the need of the hour was to wait for the swinging ball to get older. Shorey was aware of that and curbed his natural game accordingly.
"He (Himmat) is a natural strokeplayer so one has to be on the defensive side," Shorey said. "I know my role. I have to be standing on one end. He is a good strokemaker. It did not pay off too well this time but he played a really gritty innings.
"Playing in Delhi, we play a lot of 40-over, 50-over cricket, so yeah, we are strokemakers. Today, I had to hold my hand because wickets were falling. I had to change my game a bit. But it is okay. I like to take my time. These kinds of situations are very challenging situations. The wicket was doing a lot this morning and I am happy it paid off.
"On these wickets, it is all about taking your time. If you don't do that and go for your shots, you will probably get out. I took my time initially, gave respect to the bowlers, and after that it was my session."
Shorey wasn't too critical of the aggressive style he watched his batting partners employ.
"We need to back our games," he said. "You can't change your game immediately. Rishabh and Himmat are strokemakers, especially Rishabh. Everyone has seen him, I don't really need to say anything about it. He is a brilliant strokemaker. And even Himmat, he has played very maturely. It is his first season and he is playing really well."
Shorey is used to firefighting in pressure situations. Two years ago, his maiden first-class hundred rallied Delhi from 9 for 2 and 167 for 7 to 230 to eventually a win against Maharashtra. Shorey remained unbeaten on 104.
In the same month, Delhi were made to follow on by Karnataka and Shorey combined with Rana for an unbroken partnership of 240 to clinch a draw on the last day. Shorey remained not out on 107 against a pace attack of Vinay Kumar, S Aravind, Abhimanyu Mithun and HS Sharath.
More recently, in the group stage this season against Uttar Pradesh, Delhi had started strongly in reply to the visitors' score of 291, but lost five wickets for 60 runs to slip to 232 for 8. That day too, Shorey witnessed the collapse from the other end and eventually helped Delhi to 269 with an unbeaten 98 off 200 balls, having batted for over five hours. Delhi did not take the first-innings lead but they eventually won by four wickets while chasing 252.
He missed out narrowly that day, but on Friday Shorey got past the three-figure mark and did it on the biggest stage in the domestic circuit. What will please Shorey even more is that his knock came on a pitch that assisted the pace bowlers throughout the day.
"It is a very big thing, in a Ranji Trophy final you are getting a hundred," Shorey said. "I was batting really well in the initial part of the Ranji Trophy. But I wasn't getting a hundred. Am happy it paid off at the large stage."
Shorey has played all nine matches for Delhi this season, and before the final had made three half-centuries: 98*, 64 and 78. Despite not converting any of them into a hundred, Shorey felt he had been batting well and backed himself this time. He is still unbeaten on 123, his highest first-class score, and has more work to do with the tail on the second day with the second new ball only five overs old.
"It is not a bad situation," Shorey said of Delhi's score. "Two extra wickets have fallen but still we can revive. They (the tail) do bat on and off. I am the one who will do the scoring and they need to support me. And they will support me."