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Shikhar Dhawan, India's stand-in captain for the ODIs in the West Indies, has praised the maturity of his young squad which swept the series 3-0. With India resting Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah - and KL Rahul unavailable because of injury and Covid-19 - Dhawan was pleased with how the bench strength had handled pressure during the series.
"The way the boys responded ... They are young in age but quite mature and sensible, they can handle pressure quite nicely," Dhawan said after India won the rain-interrupted third ODI by 119 runs in Trinidad.
"Because of domestic cricket and the IPL … the transition to international cricket becomes quite easy for us. At the same time, hats off to all the boys - both the batting and bowling unit, the way they responded was amazing. They were quite disciplined and practical. They weren't going with emotions but were using their sense out there. It's a big, big tick for all of us."
Dhawan was pleased with the way almost every batter contributed in the series. Shubman Gill starred with 205 runs from three innings, Shreyas Iyer made 163 runs with two fifties, while Sanju Samson and Axar Patel also scored crucial half-centuries. Dhawan also said the plan to use allrounder Deepak Hooda with the ball worked so well that he opened the bowling with the offspinner in the third ODI.
"If you talk about the batting unit, everyone has scored runs - Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Sanju, Axar … there couldn't be a better sign for a batting unit," Dhawan said. "And they all are youngsters. So to play in these conditions after the England tour, be it batting first or chasing, or to play with the same grit in the third game after you have won the first two, that's a big thing in itself.
"Before the series, we knew Deepak could play an allrounder's role. The way he responded in the first match, that confidence just went up that instead of five overs, he could bowl seven-eight overs too. And not only against left-handers, but he also bowled well to their right-handers. After two games, we realised that their left-hander might struggle a bit against his offspin, we thought of giving him the new ball because there was not much swing for the fast bowlers. So given the wicket, we thought the offspinner might work, and today the first over was a maiden."
In the absence of regular openers Rohit and Rahul, India had to choose between Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan and Gill to partner Dhawan at the top. They chose Gill and he ended up being the Player of the Series, averaging 102.50 with three 40-plus scores and two century partnerships with his captain.
"He [Gill] has got a very good technique and he is a classy player; you can see that the touch he's got - I think he has got a bit of Rohit touch in him," Dhawan said. "He has a lot of time in him. Good to see that he has scored 98 today. He knew how to convert his fifty to 90s. We both got two 100-run partnerships in three matches, that's a very good sign. The way we handled the first ten overs and their bowling attack, it was really good."
Apart from having a successful series as a captain, Dhawan also made important contributions with the bat. His recent form had not been great: he averaged only 28 in his previous five ODIs before the tour of the Caribbean, and his last hundred was in June 2019. Dhawan finished as the second highest run-scorer in this series, with scores of 97, 13 and 58.
"I am very pleased with my batting because the way the ball is hitting my bat and my shots are coming out … With the experience I have and the calmness I play with, I was not rushed at all while batting. I handle the pressure in an even better manner now, so that feels good."
"Mohammed Siraj is a quality bowler. After playing for so many years, his self-belief has also increased," Dhawan said. "Even when I give him a field, he would say, 'No, I want this field.' So that pleases me because that shows his self-belief. So when he backs himself, as a captain, it becomes very easy for me. When you see boys know what to do, they know their responsibilities, it feels great as a captain."
Dhawan's series win was India's fourth consecutive overseas victory in limited-overs cricket since the tour of South Africa in January this year. He will now hand back the captaincy to Rohit, who returns for the five-match T20I series against West Indies beginning in Tarouba on Friday.