You might have already come across a bunch of notes and articles about Shikhar Dhawan and his debut innings in the print media and many more floating all over the internet. He was also trending on Twitter for quite some time while he was batting on Day 3 of the third Test between India and Australia. When you come to think of it, it does not really sound like exaggeration at all; such was the class of that innings which is yet to conclude. It kept me up all night (owing to the huge time difference between India and USA). So I won’t be unjustified in putting together my thoughts about it in a few lines.
Alright, it was a Test hundred on debut, the fastest one at that. But what really makes it even more special is the manner in which those runs were scored. Shikhar Dhawan almost nonchalantly raced to his Tirst test ton at more than run-a-ball (85 balls to be more accurate) and in the process, breaking the previous record of 105 balls for a debut test century. Hardly did he hit anything in the air till he was there. He did hit a couple of lofted shots once he had scored the 100, but no real signs of slogging yet. He stood unbeaten on 185 at the end of day’s play and there are already ominous signs that he might go on to make a big one.
Just before the start of Indian innings, I was speaking to a friend about the possible outcome of this match and had predicted a probable draw. I had also mentioned to him that I was very interested in watching Dhawan’s batting. Mind you, I’m not laying any claims that I had predicted him to become a revelation in the very first innings he would play. On the contrary, I had my doubts. I had told my friend that I have heard a lot about Shikhar and also seen him play many T-20 games and a couple of ODIs and that he looked good but not great. His domestic records point very much in the same direction (over 5500 runs at an average of approximately 46 in 81 first class matches). Neither am I contending that he has already achieved greatness by virtue of that innings. But that exemplary display of batting will surely go down in the annals of history as one of the best performances by any batsman on his debut.
Almost every scoring shot that came out of his blade was breathtaking, the ones played on the off-side cover boundary more so. So good did he look playing those shots that some have already crowned him the new ‘God of the off-side’. That, according to me, is going a step too far. Taking nothing away from Dhawan, it is just his first innings at this level after all – that too on a sub-continent pitch against a relatively depleted Australian attack. Remember, he is replacing a heavy-weight in Sehwag who owned that place for quite sometime and with great success. Once Dhawan comes out of that so called honeymoon period, he might have to come face-to-face with the cruel reality of fast and bouncy tracks in South Africa, England and Australia where the same Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc would look much more venomous.
His composure and steadiness at the crease is what stood out to me as the highlight of his batting apart from the glorious drives and cuts. A lot has always been said and written about attitude and not just talent being reasons behind the success of a player. Proponents of that theory could not have found a better day to emphasize their point. He batted like he belonged there and has owned the place for years before this. The anxiety and nervousness of a debutant were far from what he showed signs of. A couple of pull shots that he played had confidence written all over them.
That innings was, in every sense, a connoisseur’s delight. With that innings, Shikhar Dhawan would have pleased viewers and critics belonging to all school of thoughts. Perfect balance, precise foot movement, exquisite timing and supreme placement were some of the key features of his innings as far as the technicalities are concerned. At the same time, it was an extraordinary display of flare as he stepped out and lofted the spinners a couple of times en route his 185 not out. To those who believe in the modern day style of Test cricket, this innings would be the one to emulate – scoring at a strike rate of over 100 without taking any apparent risk, thanks to some lovely text book cricketing shots.
To sum up, I would refrain from making any extravagant predictions about India discovering a new star and a permanent solution to the opening slot. I would just like to conclude saying that Dhawan should draw a lot of confidence out of his wonderful start and look to capitalize on it. This should give him a lot of peace and satisfaction when he would look back on this performance once the test match is over and times after that – for this is truly an innings of rare brilliance!