Turning things around, the Dhawan way

Over two editions of the Champions Trophy and the 2015 World Cup, Dhawan now averages 69.73 from 16 matches, with five hundreds. In the Champions Trophy alone, he averages over 90 from eight matches.

India’s Shikhar Dhawan has repaid the faith the selectors posed in him.   -  AP

Deep in the bowels of the Oval, Shikhar Dhawan cut a relaxed figure as he fronted the media at the Ken Barrington indoor centre, soon after India's shock loss to Sri Lanka. "I can speak Hindi, you know," he joked, when someone enquired if questions could be posed in that language. There was no strain of defeat on his face; there were no impatient answers. When asked about his record in ICC tournaments, Dhawan simply smiled. "I don't know; that's just something you guys write about," he said. "I just keep doing my process and play the same way."

Over two editions of the Champions Trophy and the 2015 World Cup, Dhawan now averages 69.73 from 16 matches, with five hundreds. In the Champions Trophy alone, he averages over 90 from eight matches. Four years ago, he was the tournament's leading scorer here as India galloped to victory. That tournament completed his rebirth as an international cricketer; it established him in the Indian one-day set-up and banished for good the memories of his horror debut in Visakhapatnam. In this edition, he has scores of 68, 125 and 78 from India's three games in Group B, helping lay the foundation at the top of the order.

When Dhawan takes flight, he is irrepressible. In the 2013 Champions Trophy, he delighted in stepping out of the crease and smacking fast bowlers. Where did he get this courage from, he was asked then. "I practise this in the nets and implement it in the match," he had said. "When I feel I have to hit it, I do it. It works for me. It’s my game."

This time around, Dhawan has been a little more restrained in the nature of the shots he has played, although the boundaries have not stopped flowing. He has not tried to force things, but instead waited for the right moments. It is difficult to imagine that only a couple of months ago, he was far from certain of a spot in India's squad. This January, when he was recalled for the home series against England, he had not played an ODI for almost a year. It was not the greatest of comebacks; he made 1 and 11 and was promptly dropped for the third game in Kolkata.

If K.L. Rahul was fit, it is unlikely Dhawan would have been part of India's plans here. But his runs for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL helped, as did the faith of India's selectors and leadership group in him. The 31-year-old has more than repaid that faith.

His opening partnership with Rohit Sharma — something India experimented with for the first time in January 2013 and then unleashed on the world in that summer's Champions Trophy — has worked a treat again. "We understand each other very well," Rohit said. "We keep stealing a lot of singles. Strike rotation is very important. The left-right combination causes a lot of problems for the bowlers. Line or length needs to be changed."

Dhawan agreed that the camaraderie the two shared had helped their batting. "It's been three-four years now, playing with Rohit," he said. "Once you know the person on and off the field then you have that comfort level and we both know each other's games. Today, I started off a bit aggressive and then I was a bit slow and he was kicking off. So we create that balance for each other and it's not that we have to say it. We understand that automatically. We have been opening for a long time and that stability creates consistency. It's a good thing."

There is — as Dhawan and India prepare for yet another major semifinal — little denying that.

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