There’s more to Shikhar Dhawan than meets eye

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The story could have been a very different one. At the start of Shikhar Dhawan’s famous Test debut against Australia in 2013, Mitchell Starc had lost the ball during his run-up and inadvertently disturbed the stumps at the non-striker’s end. Dhawan had already left his crease and if there had been an appeal (Starc just picked up the ball, smiled and returned to the top of his run-up) and if the umpire had deemed the effort intentional, Dhawan would have been Mankaded for a diamond duck on Test debut.
‘Spirit of Cricket’ prevailed. Dhawan survived. Dhawan batted. And records tumbled.
187 runs were scored at a blitzkrieg pace, and Shikhar Dhawan had announced himself to the world. An opener from Delhi with a penchant for destruction and a disregard for reputation. Everyone, barring the Australians that day, was excited.
During the recently-concluded Indian Premier League, one that Shikhar Dhawan’s team finished as champions, I spoke to the left-hander about how it is like to be him. Over the conversation, I spoke to a man who was, to put it bluntly, just plain happy. A man who was grateful for the chance he got to do what he was doing. A man who loved what he was doing. A doting father. A loving husband. A prankster. An average comedian. A team man. A swashbuckling batsman. A sufi lover. A willing learner. I was talking to a man who was an intimate portrait of one who longs to be normal.
Dhawan is an opinion divider. Views about his spot and impact in the Indian side are still discordant.
He is easily pigeonholed as the typical Delhiite. Tattoos, a moustache he loves to twirl, bulging muscles that are barely concealed underneath a tight-fitting shirt, a booming voice and the tendency to crack silly jokes. All this, but with precocious talent. Others just see him as a player for whom the drop can’t come quicker. A non-performer outside Asia. A flat-track bully. A man with the knack to score big just when the axe is about to fall. But he continues to be a constant figure for the Indian team across all formats, in each as its specialist opener. MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, David Warner, Tom Moody, Ravi Shastri have all been effusive in their praise about Dhawan and what he can do when his batting comes off.
He knows why there is so much faith. He knows he is a match-winner.
“They say that I take more risk in my batting, and they see me as a match-winner for the team. That was one of the big reasons that they had a lot of patience towards me. They knew I can win matches for the side. I could play impact innings for the side.
“I really don’t focus on what people say. With time, I have realized that it doesn’t matter what people say out there. As I said, if I had those many failures, then how can I still average 43 and how did I become the fastest to 3000 runs. That’s how I personally feel.
“I also know that once I’m set, I can play the impact innings for my side. That’s what happened in the 2015 World Cup. Before that, I wasn’t doing that great, but once the World Cup came, I started off with a bang and I started being consistent. And it went well for me.”

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