'I was fortunate they dropped my catches' - Dhawan
After his startling reincarnation as an international opener, it's easy to forget that Shikhar Dhawan was once written off by many observers as being unfit for national service. Since his return to ODIs at the Champions Trophy, he has scored 631 runs at 57.36, relying mainly on his silken touch through the off side. In the course of his third ODI century, however, he relied as much on luck as anything else.
"The wicket wasn't easy to bat on," he said after his Man-of-the-Match performance against Zimbabwe. "The ball was swinging and cutting, and they bowled really well in the first 25 overs. I was just fortunate enough that they dropped my catches today."
Despite their lapses in the field, Zimbabwe had reduced India to 65 for 4 before Dhawan found an able partner in Dinesh Karthik - incidentally, another cricketer who has, more than once, been discarded by the national side. "The team really needed a big partnership when we were four or five down, and myself and Dinesk Karthik played really well and made a big score for our team," Dhawan said.
"We're really happy. It was a very important partnership which brought us back into the game. We knew that we had to score big runs on this wicket because it gets much better in the second innings. Then things went our way."
Cricket was a slightly different game when Dhawan was first picked for India, and as an opener one of the rule-changes that he has had to pay particular attention to is that which stipulates that a new ball will be used from each end in ODIs. The rule means that batsmen have to deal with a hard, moving ball for longer than they used to.
"It's more difficult nowadays because you've got new balls from both ends," Dhawan explained. "When the ball is swinging you really need to play close to your body. You'll see that in the first 10 overs, openers are not scoring that many nowadays because the ball is new and it swings a lot and you have to be more careful. Shot selection is very important, because you don't want to lose wickets at the start and put pressure on the rest of the side."
Dhawan's international resurrection has occurred during a transitional phase for Indian cricket, and he has been given another chance thanks partly to the fading fortunes of long-time opening pair Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. Such periods of upheaval present myriad challenges, but India have so far largely weathered them, recently winning the Champions Trophy and scrapping their way to success in the Caribbean tri-series.
Dhawan said he was pleased with what he saw from the team. "Our team is gelling really nicely. All the young boys are very fit and really good in the field. Fielding-wise, we have really improved a lot. I feel like everything is working our way."
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town