For much of the early part of the 2019 season, Shikhar Dhawan seemed to be content to play an anchor role. The result was a poor scoring rate and just two fifties in the first nine matches of the season. He knew he needed to play faster but something seemed to be holding him back.
In the first six matches of the 2019 season, he scored 152 runs at an average of 25.33 and a poor strike rate of 116.03 with a boundary every 6.55 deliveries.
Multiple conversations with coach Ricky Ponting and then-DC mentor Sourav Ganguly centered around one thing and one thing alone — how can they get the left-hander to play his natural attacking game?
Ganguly’s suggestion was a simple one. He asked Dhawan to stick to the basics, not experiment too much and perhaps most importantly, not worry about the results.
The advice worked wonders for Dhawan as he went on to score 299 runs at an average of 59.8 and a strike rate of 151.01 in the six matches in the latter half of Delhi’s campaign.
“I just changed my thought process,” Dhawan had then said. “That is it. It is just in the mind. I knew I had to play faster. I knew what shots I have to bring in and what risks I have to take.”
Now, the reason we are talking about last season is simply that Dhawan seemed to start IPL 2020 in anchor mode too. Not exactly going after the bowling and letting Shaw handle that role.
But with Shaw’s form dipping, the left-hander stepped up to score his first IPL century and take Delhi Capitals to a win over the experienced Chennai Super Kings. This coming after scoring a half-century in the previous game showed that perhaps the ‘thought process’ change has come a little earlier this season.
For most of the innings, Dhawan seemed to wage a lone battle. The others hung around but not for long enough to put CSK on the backfoot. The DC opener, though, was in ‘see ball, hit ball’ mode and that is when he is at his finest.
Dhawan has the rare ability of finding the gaps in the field and on a smallish ground like Sharjah, his punch strokes can make him a devastating batsman. He has been adding to his game – the reverse hits are an addition to his game and on Saturday, he found all the right angles too. CSK, of course, didn’t help matters by dropping him thrice during the course of the innings.
The first drop came when Dhawan had made only 25. The second one came when Dhawan had just reached his fifty. The final one came when Dhawan was in his eighties. And on each occasion, the DC opener simply seemed to shrug off the incident and carry on disrupting the plans of the CSK bowlers.
Watch highlights of Dhawan’s knock against CKS below:
“Shikhar’s wicket was important, we did drop him quite a few times,” said Dhoni after the game. “He’s somebody if he is batting, he’ll keep ticking the scoreboard. He’ll keep taking his chances. If he’s there on the crease, he’ll always maintain a good strike rate. I felt his wicket was crucial. Also, there was a difference between the first and second innings. The wicket behaved slightly better in the second innings, it came on slightly better which made it slightly easy for the batsmen. But overall, we can’t really take the credit away from Shikhar, he batted really well and was supported really well by the other batters.”
Dhawan has always been a streaky batsman; streaky in the sense that once he gets going or finds a rhythm, he can be hard to stop. Throughout his international career too, we have seen Dhawan make the most of similar purple patches and Delhi will be happy that he is coming into his own just as the business end nears.
Dhawan’s form will perhaps take the pressure of young Shaw and that will help Delhi too.
“I knew if Shikhar stayed till the end, we would win,” said DC skipper Shreyas Iyer. “I just told one of my team-mates today that the way Shikhar batted was mesmerising to see. As a captain, that gives you breathing space that someone can take your team to the end.”