Rishi on a roll

His commendable role as skipper of the Himachal Ranji team this season has also enhanced Rishi Dhawan's reputation as a player of substance, writes J.R. Shridharan.-C.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

His commendable role as skipper of the Himachal Ranji team this season has also enhanced Rishi Dhawan’s reputation as a player of substance, writes J.R. Shridharan.

Upar wala jab deta hai, tho chhappar phad-ke deta hai” (As and when God wills, it doesn’t rain, it pours!)

This oft-used Hindi maxim fits the up and coming all-rounder Rishi Dhawan like a glove. The cricketer from Mandi, a district headquarters near Kulu Manali of Himachal Pradesh, is riding high on his unprecedented success — as a bowler, batsman and skipper.

Everything is looking hunky-dory for Dhawan, 23, as he has impressed everyone, with his technique and temperament. He is not only among the wickets this season (47 so far) but has also excelled with the bat scoring nearly 350 runs with four-half centuries. His commendable role as skipper of the Himachal Ranji team this season has also enhanced his reputation as a player of substance.

That the National selector Roger Binny had flown down to Visakhapatnam, the venue of the Andhra-Himachal Pradesh Ranji match, just to watch Rishi’s performance, is an indication that the Himachal lad is knocking at the doors of the Indian team.

“This is my best season so far. I did not do anything exceptional but stuck to the cardinal principal of pace bowling — sticking to line and length. I used my ability to swing the ball and I regularly bowled at three-quarter line for optimum results. My gameplan was different for different surfaces,” says Rishi, who made his first-class debut in 2009.

Rishi is a product of Himachal’s junior cricket and has come up through the ranks. “In fact I began as an opening batsman. But I started to take bowling seriously from 2009,” says Rishi, who has six five-wicket hauls, including match figures of 10 for 87 against Assam this season.

Keen on improving as a quality all-rounder, Rishi is also concentrating on his batting and he already has three first-class centuries under his belt. “I bat in the middle order,” he points out.

Rishi, in his budding career, has already figured in Duleep and Deodhar fixtures and was selected to play for India ‘A’ against England ‘A’ though he did not get a chance to play. He is one of the beneficiaries of the Indian Premier League (IPL) as his entry into Mumbai Indians in the sixth edition helped him shape into a better cricketer.

“In fact my IPL stint was a learning curve for I was able to interact with players like Mitchell Johnson, Lasith Malinga, Munaf Patel and Sachin Tendulkar who gave me their invaluable tips.” Rishi picked up six wickets in the IPL and later five in the Champions Trophy.

Knowing well that he needs to add more sting to his bowling, Rishi is working hard on speed. “I am working on my pace for which I am strengthening my body by following a prescribed fitness regime. During off-season, I spend around two hours to keep myself fit. The percentage of wear and tear in an all-rounder will be more as he has to perform a dual role. Sometimes I feel tired bowling 20-odd overs and bat a few hours later. In modern day cricket fitness is supreme,” he says.

Rishi likes all three formats and he is mastering bowling with the white ball, used for the shorter form of the game. “The white ball, which is harder than the red, swings initially and later the bowler has to use his skills to get his act right. But bowling with the red ball, one should always maintain the shine to make it swing. The white ball, owing to glaze, will have extra movement.”

The lad from Mandi, however, feels that the small-town tag was never a serious issue for he believed in commitment and determination. “The size of the place you stay hardly matters. One should sincerely practise and give his 100 per cent to climb the ladder of success. Even with minimum facilities one can make his mark at the international level,” opines Rishi, who honed his skills under various coaches at various stages of his career.

Coach Rajdeep Kalsi rates his ward as a player who uses his mind in an astute manner and brands him a player who loves to shoulder responsibility. “He always carries a positive mindset. That is the reason he was given the additional role as captain and look how he has helped the team to reach the top.”