Shaking off the blues

Only during times of failure do you realise the value of success. The feeling of failure hurt me emotionally and that motivated me to improve my game. — SHIKHAR DHAWAN-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

“I was always an aggressive player by nature. But there was a time when I used to get myself out rather than the bowler dismissing me. Over the last four years, I have felt good about my technique,” says Shikhar Dhawan in a chat with Arun Venugopal.

Shikhar Dhawan, by his own admission, has contended with bouts of inconsistent performances for a while. After a lukewarm showing in the Ranji Trophy last season, the 26-year-old tasted success in the IPL (he finished as the third highest scorer in the tournament with 569 runs). This was followed by a disappointing tour of the West Indies with India ‘A’.

The Delhi batsman has, however, started the new season on a high note. With scores of 99 n.o., 152 and 61 in the N. K. P. Salve Challenger Trophy, Dhawan has reasons to smile.

When Sportstar catches up with the strongly-built left-hander in Chennai after his 101 and 50 help North Zone steal a march on West Zone in the Duleep Trophy quarterfinal, he doesn’t back away from self-deprecatory quips. Dhawan’s frankness is also on view when he speaks about his failures and how he met his fiancée (“I found her on facebook man”).

Question: How do you assess your start to the season?

Answer: I am very happy with how things are going. My failure in the Ranji last year (he aggregated 296 runs at an average of 32.88) is a stepping stone. Skill-wise, I always was good but it’s about being consistent. I have been inspired by the legendary Muhammad Ali’s quotes. Only during times of failure do you realise the value of success. The feeling of failure hurt me emotionally and that motivated me to improve my game.

Before we talk about your career, tell us about your initiation into cricket?

Like most children, I started playing in my colony. I was 11 (years-old) when I first started playing with the cricket ball. My cousins used to play at Sonnet Club and so I went there as well. I was coached by Madan Sharma and Tarak Sinha. I played age-group cricket for Delhi. During the third year of playing under-19 cricket, I was selected for the under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh (he was named the Player of the Tournament for scoring 505 runs at 84.16 with three centuries).

Growing up, who were your role models?

I never had one although I used to admire Andy Flower and Sachin (Tendulkar) paaji. When I started understanding technique, I began to admire Yuvi paaji (Yuvraj Singh). I have also learnt a lot about will power from watching Cheteshwar Pujara bat.

How much has your game evolved over the years?

I was always an aggressive player by nature. But there was a time when I used to get myself out rather than the bowler dismissing me. Over the last four years, I have felt good about my technique. I learnt this from Kapil (Dev) paaji: “Whatever you learn, you must practise and perfect it in the nets.” I have become more mature and my cricketing sense has improved.

The IPL impact…

To be playing with the best cricketers in the world is a truly amazing experience. Personally, it was a dream come true for me to play alongside Sachin paaji at Mumbai Indians.

…And the fun times

There were quite a few characters in the Mumbai Indians team. When we would return to the team hotel after a match, Dwayne Bravo would compose a song and we would dance in the bus. There is one prank I remember very clearly. Once, in South Africa, Bravo and (Kieron) Pollard dressed up as burglars and scared the rest of the team with fake guns (laughs).

Memories of international debut…

I actually don’t have good memories of it (laughs). I didn’t sleep before the game because the first match was washed out and I was very nervous before the second ODI in Visakhapatnam (against Australia). I got out for a duck but consoled myself with the fact that even players like M. S. Dhoni scored a duck on debut.

The lows of your career…

There have been lots of them (grins sheepishly). Right from my childhood, ups and downs have followed each other with unbelievable regularity. I had a good tour of Abu Dhabi with India ‘A’ but was soon dropped. Similarly, I got to play five ODIs for India but was dropped afterwards. I got a couple of 150-plus scores in the Irani Trophy but didn’t do well in the Ranji. But I am mentally stronger now and looking to make amends.

Family, friends, and fiancée…

I come from a Punjabi family and my father’s a businessman while my mother’s a housewife. My parents knew I wasn’t very good in studies but a naturally good sportsman. They would encourage me by buying me a gift whenever I performed well. Besides my childhood buddies, I have many good friends like Virat (Kohli), Ishant (Sharma), Yuvi paaji and Bhaji (Harbhajan Singh).

My fiancée (Esha) is half-English and half-Bengali. We will be getting married soon. The tuft that you see on my head (ratti) is her gift to me (laughs).

Shikhar, the individual, and his goals

I look very serious but I am actually a fun-loving person. I love adventure sport and horse riding. It’s my dream to own a horse one day. My goal is to play for India successfully for a long time.