A soothing natural smile, long strides with confidence oozing from each one of those, sleeves of the t-shirt rolled up just enough to provide more than a glimpse of his extravagant tattoo – Shikhar Dhawan makes his way in a manner reminiscent to his walk to the centre of the cricket pitch. But the props are different. He is holding a coffee mug instead of his brand new Kookarburra willow. The spikes have given way to a rainbow coloured nagri shoe and the setting is inside the hall of a posh New Delhi five-star and not a cricket field. But that’s Shikhar Dhawan for you. Cricket hasn’t added to his persona, it has become a part.
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Dhawan takes a sip from the cup and settles for a chat, the smile getting broader with each of his words. Hard to believe, the same man has gone through some rough weather of late mainly because of his approach or the lack of it in T20Is. For the next few minutes, he talks in lengths and breadths about his form, T20 World Cup, batting with Rohit Sharma, Test comeback but not for once gives the impression of being under pressure.
“It’s all about destiny I guess. I never prepare differently for an ICC tournament but it just so happens that I score big,” Dhawan tells Hindustan Times in the launch of StanceBeam Striker that provides personalized and real-time performance data for cricketers. The inevitability of the topic shifting towards T20Is evident in his expressions. But he is prepared, not with sharpest of answers but with an honesty that can only come naturally.
“See I have certain roles in the T20I side. Have been practicing hard in trying to perform that. Hopefully by the time T20 world cup comes, everything falls into place,” he says. “I don’t think there are issues in T20Is. If you observe, I have been scoring well in the last few matches against South Africa and Bangladesh. Yes, I was a bit slow in the Delhi T20I. But that’s because I tried to bat differently because of the pitch. I know, 50 off 43 balls would have been a lot better than the 40 odd I got but yeah, I learnt.”
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Dhawan did learn. After being criticised for his 43-ball 41 in the first T20I against Bangladesh, he came back with stronger performances in Rajkot (31) and Nagpur (19), not exactly in terms of scores but a lot in terms of intent.
“Yes we had a plan to go hard in the first six overs. We knew if we could get 50-60 runs in the first six that will make the job easy for the middle order.”
In trying to find a gear in Dhawan which probably doesn’t exist, the critics overlook the impact he has while opening with Rohit Sharma. “Playing with Rohit for so many years has helped the bonding to grow automatically. We understand each other’s game very well. It’s in auto mode now. After playing for so many years, you get a feeling on what to do in different situations,” Dhawan adds.
In between his smiles and searing confidence, what doesn’t get enough attention is his ability to predict the next move of others. Be it the length of the bowler, or the next question from a reporter, Dhawan starts his mental preparations before the actual event. It was therefore, not a surprise to see a wry smile in his smile when the topic shifted from Rohit Sharma his opening partner to Rohit Sharma the captain and the differences in style with Virat Kohli.
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“They are different characters. In different situations they make different choices. Whatever they feel right at one particular moment, they go with it. They of course discuss with each other. When Rohit is leading, he discusses with me, when Virat is leading he discusses with Rohit and me too,” Dhawan says.
With 20-odd games to go for T20 World Cup next year, Dhawan makes it clear that the team is in build-up process but also exerts that India have every chance of bringing the cup home from Australia. “We’ve got one year. Whatever we have to plan we are planning it now and then only we can reach the final combination. I’m confident that this time we’ll come back with the cup.”
The heartfelt conversation takes a turn towards reality when Dhawan gets reminder about his absence from the Test side. “The hard work and determination is still there. I will obviously play Ranji if I get time and opportunity. I’ll keep knocking on the doors and hopefully come back as strong contender,” Dhawan signs off, making it clear that he might have a few shortcomings in both the longest and the shortest formats but intent isn’t one of them.