Kolkata: The kind of character Shikhar Dhawan is, it's unlikely that the senior Indian opener is trying to prove a point to his critics. If the 35-year-old had anything to prove - it was to himself that he still packed a punch to perform at the highest level of white ball cricket - be it the IPL or one more shot at the T20 World Cup.
This is precisely what 'Gabbar,' as he is popular as after the legendary reel villain of Bollywood, showed during match-winning innings of 92 off 49 balls against Punjab Kings on Monday. More importantly, he restored the self belief in the Delhi squad as they returned to winning ways after succumbing to a surprise defeat to Rajasthan Royals in the previous game.
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After Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul laid the foundation for a steep target of 196 before Delhi, there were still a few doubts if young skipper Rishabh Pant had taken the right call to chase at the toss. The way Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw launched into the Punjab attack raised enough hopes though, alongwith the perfect batting conditions and the dew which were making lives difficult for the Punjab bowlers.
The Delhi Capitals' batting have, in the absence of the consistent Shreyas Iyer this season, been a bit over-reliant on the openers and allrounder Marcus Stoinis for finishing games. It was a given that if Delhi had to keep pace with the target with an asking rate hovering around 10, they cannot afford to slacken the pace - and this is precisely what Dhawan did with elan before he was dismissed in the 15th over.
A redeeming feature of Dhawan's batsmanship over the years, irrespective of the format, had been his ability to score at a fast clip. He did that once more against the likes of Mohammed Shami and Jhye Richardson by selecting the gaps in the field effortlessly and despatching the ball to the fence through those areas. Yes, the arc on the onside between the deep fine leg and mid wicket has always been his favourite, but Sunday saw him spraying the ball on all sides of the wicket.
The fact that the veteran had 13 hits to the fence and two sixes, despite maintaining a strike-rate of 187.76, tells it's own story. It could be a lesson for several of the Gen-X free-stroking players, whose ultra-aggressive approach have often turned out to be counter-productive and derailed their team's chases in this edition.
Finally, a word about Punjab Kings. It's still early days and one win out of three may not be that bad a start, but what's surprising is the team's often knee-jerk reaction to losses despite the presence of a cricketing brain like Anil Kumble in the dugout. The courage to stick by their own decision had always been a key feature among the more successful teams!