India talked about a sustained batting approach going into their World Cup game against South Africa. It had worked against Pakistan, they were able to repeat it today in Melbourne and Shikhar Dhawan played key roles in both games. He built that momentum and sustained it through the innings. The same Shikhar Dhawan who could not seem to get going on India's tour of Australia, neither in the Tests nor in the one-day tri-series.

Calmness and Dhawan may feel odd when used in the same sentence. But he has a certain steadiness when in flow, something that Virender Sehwag had. On such days, Dhawan may be beaten and made to hop, but you sense he will find the release shot soon, without having to resort to anything funny. There is no desperation to his hitting; he does not lunge at the drives, does not snatch at the cuts.

And South Africa made him hop alright. He was hit on the glove while trying to fend off snorters from Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn. He had to jab away deliveries dug in at his ribs and was not finding any timing on the pull initially.

It was a short ball that claimed him off the top-edged hook, but by then, Dhawan had lasted 146 deliveries to make 137, his highest ODI score. By then, he had pulled, cut and punched numerous boundaries and even ramped a bouncer over the keeper for four.

Dhawan likes to charge fast bowlers, likes to take them on, likes to pull and hook. Often, he is hurried by the short ball and gets into rather awkward positions, but still goes through with his shots and ends up holing out. But when he is in rhythm, it all comes off, as it does with such batsmen.

India rely a lot on hitting boundaries and how they would hit them to the large boundaries at the MCG was a point of discussion going into the game. But Dhawan combined power and timing so effectively that the South Africa fielders had to retrieve the ball from the distant ropes 18 times. The shorter lengths also failed to curb him after a point.

Mohammad Irfan had tried to rough Dhawan up in the Pakistan game, and just like he did this afternoon, Dhawan gave himself some time before attacking whenever he got width. MS Dhoni said that those initial few minutes of batting against Pakistan had helped Dhawan regain his elusive touch.

"He was putting in a lot of effort in the net sessions. A lot of times, people talk about form, but form is something nobody really sees," Dhoni said. "It is just a matter of 15-20 minutes [in the middle] and maybe it was something that he spent in the last game, that 20 minutes of initial batting that really helped him."

Dhoni was especially pleased with the way Dhawan had gone on after reaching his century, and had lasted as far as the 44th over.

"Today he was batting the way he bats. When it was there to hit the big shots, he played them. He was also rotating the strike. He made sure that once he got his hundred, he was still there at the crease so that it was easier for the other batsman also.

"It is important if you get a hundred and are able to score 130 or 140, then you will always see the team getting those extra 25-30 runs. It was good on his part to make sure he stays till the end. General tendency for the openers after the 25th over is they like to play the big shots, they think their job is over, but in these conditions once you are set you have to make the most of it."

Two crucial innings to set up the two biggest matches for India in the group. Dhawan was an extremely improbable candidate to do it at the start, but he has made the most of India's first week at the World Cup.

Abhishek Purohit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo