Dubai: Watching Shikhar Dhawan over the years, one gets a feeling that his easygoing nature and penchant for playing the joker in the pack often overshadows his stature as one of the finest opening batsman in Indian cricket in the Virender Sehwag mould. His matchwinning effort of 101 against the normally stingy Chennai Super Kings attack in Sharjah on Saturday was a fine example of the possibilities if ‘Gabbar,’ as he has nicknamed himself, takes himself a little seriously.
It was one of the most evenly balanced contests between bat and ball in the IPL 2020 so far, with Dhawan making a difficult chase of 180 on a slow surface look easy with his enormous experience and adaptability to the conditions. True, it could have been a case of so-near-yet-so-far if Axar Patel had not struck those three mightly blows in the last over, but the manner in which Dhawan marshalled the chase deserves a big applause.
Just run through the early stages of Delhi Capitals chase in your mind again. Looking one of the most balanced sides and title-contenders in the tournament so far, they looked on the mat at 26 for two with Prithvi Shaw and Ajinkya Rahane, the other senior pro apart from Dhawan, already back in the hut. The 34-year-old Dhawan decided to ride his luck after being dropped twice and took upon himself to ensure that the asking rate does not get out of hand by keeping the scoreboard moving with the flurry of boundaries and well-run singles.
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His first century in IPL eventually comprised of 14 boundaries and only one six - reflecting a change of approach in shot-making right though. It’s worthwhile to recollect here that in his IPL journey across five franchises since the first edition in 2008 (Deccan Chargers, Delhi Daredevils, Mumbai Indians, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Delhi Capitals), Dhawan stands fifth in all-time rungetters’ list in the league behind names like Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and David Warner.
Even though he is credited with the fastest century on Test debut (against Australia in 2012-13 series), Dhawan rightfully deserves his place among the white ball greats of world cricket - with his contribution behind India’s success in the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy being a memorable one.
It was, meanwhile, a demoralising loss for the ‘Yellove,’ who could have ended on the winning side despite Dhawan’s heroics if Patel had not undone all of Sam Curran’s good work in the 19th over with those sixes. The three-time champions, now in sixth position with only three wins, have a mountain to climb if they have to take a shot at the play-offs.
To make matters worse, the talismanic captain M.S.Dhoni now has only 136 runs to show from nine innings after batting in different positions. He is clearly failing to time the ball and looking a shadow of himself.
The onus is clearly on this once-in-a-generation cricketer to prove his critics wrong!