Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
To feel ball hitting bat and pinging off is a boost for players like Shikhar Dhawan. One that helps settle him down in the same way as his opening partner M Vijay does by leaving as often as possible. In the subcontinent, it can be an asset. Against as toothless a bowling display as Bangladesh's on the opening day of the Fatullah Test, it is practical. With the monsoon scheduled to barge in further, his 150 off 158 balls is a scene-setter. On national comeback, it could be defining.
The merits of a batsman capable of influencing a match as much and as quickly as Dhawan are apparent. Despite four hours' play washed out, India have cruised to 239 for 0 in 56 overs to keep their prospects of victory alive. A third century, his first since February 2014, scored at a healthy clip is courting a valuable ally - scoreboard pressure. A much-needed one, considering the pitch has been adamantly unhelpful. It isn't difficult to imagine India scoring at an even higher tempo, batting Bangladesh out and then yielding the floor to the five bowlers.
A strategy, while enhancing their chances to claim 20 wickets, also demands only the best six batsmen make the XI. Has there been enough evidence that Dhawan is the right man at the top of the order? Or should KL Rahul get his place back when he recovers? Perhaps Cheteshwar Pujara can double up as opener if needed? India will need to solve this selection dilemma soon with a tour to Sri Lanka and a visit from South Africa awaiting them.
Empirical evidence suggests Dhawan should make the cut, especially in the subcontinent. If the new ball doesn't move, the gaps are easy pickings. A few runs under the belt, a few shots skipping to the boundary, a whole lot of nerves taken out of the equation. Next stop, an unbeaten daddy hundred.
Dhawan's second scoring shot was a boundary, so was his fourth. He dismissed Shuvagata Hom for successive fours in the sixth over and found three more against Mohammad Shahid in the seventh. Twenty-eight balls faced, 34 runs gobbled up. An excellent late cut to get to 53 off 47 balls and towards the end of the day, on a serene 134 off 136 balls, he swivelled in the crease to swat a Shakib Al Hasan delivery right through the wicketkeeper. But by now, you wonder when a dropped catch hasn't been part of one of his tons. The lapse occurred when he had been on 73 but Hom at short midwicket had moved late.
A better opposition could have capitalised on that. Better oppositions are what await India. The pitches might continue to be bland but Sri Lanka and South Africa possess bowling resources that won't let the cricket become one-way traffic. Rangana Herath could paint a bull's eye on Dhawan's stumps. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel could keep the edge of his bat and the slip cordon busy. If the splice felt left out, they'd dig in a few short ones too. Those weaknesses were the reason Dhawan had been benched during the England and Australia tours. Bangladesh did not test Dhawan on those weaknesses, so it is difficult to ascertain if he's over them.
There was improvement though. Three spinners flitted in and out of the attack, tempting him, but he was content to knock the ball along the ground. Strokemakers can be sucked into a dismissal despite being well set. Dhawan's been as guilty of that as anyone. Today, he cultivated his innings through singles - 60 of them - and fours off bad balls - 21 of them. He tempered his natural inclinations just enough that when the boundary wasn't the prudent option, he was still able to make the best of every ball available. Whether it was by letting it go or dabbing it around. India wouldn't mind if he got comfortable doing that, considering he was still able to boss the game.