Ahead of the three-match One-Day International series against West Indies, India captain Shikhar Dhawan spoke about the opportunity to work with youngsters, his rapport with Rahul Dravid and navigating through the criticism he has received over the years.

West Indies vs India: Shikhar Dhawan-led visitors pose tough challenge for Nicholas Pooran and Co

In the absence of key players like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah, Dhawan is not only entrusted with the responsibility of leading the side but as a senior, also guide them as they try to cement their spots in the Indian white-ball set-up.

“I’m very excited,” Dhawan said in a video by the BCCI ahead of the first ODI against West Indies on Friday. “Whenever I get a chance to work with the youngsters, I feel I can share my experience with them. Everyone does skill work, but I like to speak about the mental aspect and bring an impact to their games.”

After working with Kohli, Rohit, Ajinkya Rahane, Pant, Pandya and Bumrah, Rahul Dravid will be working with the seventh Indian captain since his appointment as head coach. In the press conference ahead of the first ODI against West Indies, Dhawan spoke about the importance of building a positive team culture alongside Dravid, who he has worked with in his previous assignment as full-time captain during India’s Tour of Sri Lanka in 2021.

“We have a great bond. We had been to Sri Lanka [last year] and bonded well there. There is an understanding, which is very good. I feel my energy and nature are such that we’re all together. That liveliness within the group creates a good bond,” he said.

He added: “There’s always fun and games, and a lot of laughter. Earlier, we had team dinners and team activities. Now, we do (Instagram) reels too. If people are happy with it, it makes us happy (laughs).”

India’s enviable bench strength means that Dhawan, Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan and Ruturaj Gaikwad are fighting for the same spot in the top-order. As a result, after the lack of big scores in the recently concluded ODI series against England where he scored 1, 9 and 31*, there were some questions. However, Dhawan admitted to brushing aside the criticism, much like he has been doing for several years and focusing on bettering his performance.

Ajeeb kya lagega, ab toh 10 saal hogaye (I don’t feel odd, I have heard it for 10 years),” he said. “People keep talking, I keep performing. If I listened to them, I wouldn’t be here. I have the experience, so I’m not too worried. As long as I self-analyse and improve, nothing else matters.

“I’m a very positive person. For me, positivity is about self-belief and the confidence you take in. I have that since I’ve been playing for so many years. I’m here because I’ve done some good things. That is the positivity I want to pass on to the youngsters.

He added: “We want to create the kind of energy where we put faith in each other to ensure the result takes care of itself. There is pressure in international cricket, sure, but it’s not the kind of pressure that will change my personality or style of play. I have a lot of belief in myself and the team.”

Quotes courtesy: PTI