Forced Breaks Helped Shikhar Shape Up

23/02/2015 4:42 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
India's Shikhar Dhawan hits the ball to the boundary during their Cricket World Cup pool B match South Africa in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Theo Karanikos)

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By Arani Basu

Over the last year and a half, question marks over Shikhar Dhawan's presence in the Indian lineup, usually midway through an away tour, had become par for the course. Each time he was shunted out of the playing XI, skipper MS Dhoni would say: "He needs to think about his game."

shikhar dhawan

On Sunday at the MCG, Shikhar produced an innings of substance which also showcased a maturity many thought was missing in him. "We have been talking about this for some time now. He took time to understand his game. The breaks given to him during a tour have made an impact. He needed to be given those 'rest' games. Good to see he has played an innings which is not usual for him," Madan Sharma, Shikhar's coach and mentor told TOI on Sunday.

While people may think that the 'breaks' were meant to put pressure on him to perform, Shikhar was given the assurance that he was a crucial cog in the team's wheel. And team director Ravi Shastri played an important role in shoring Shikhar up. "Over the last month and a half, he said Shastri has been spending a lot of time with him. He needed to make a few minor adjustments to his batting as he was already getting starts and timing the ball well. But Shastri kept telling him that he is India's crucial card and he had the game to accelerate later in the innings. He need not worry about the run rate initially. The team management did well to keep his mind off cricket for a good portion of the tour," Madan informed, adding, "Shikhar told me that he would do well in the World Cup as he is more confident of playing in a tournament than a bilateral series."

The 'adjustments' and 'understanding' of his game has helped him devise a method to counter pace, bounce and has also helped him in building an innings. "He realised after the South Africa tour that bowlers have started believing that they can get him out with the short ball. He realised he couldn't just jump out against new ball bowlers. He was not sure whether to attack or to let them go. But before leaving for Australia, he made up his mind. He came to the academy and practised the upper cut against the bowling machine. And it has started to come off since the World Cup match against Pakistan," said Madan.

Former India opener Chetan Chauhan, a long-time Delhi selector who has watched Shikhar since he was a boy, said, "He looks flamboyant but he is very determined and gutsy. He persevered while Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag were playing for India. He spoke to me a lot and did his best not to get frustrated. And today when he doesn't run down to the pacers, it shows he has matured," Chauhan said.

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