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Dhawan regains form at the right time

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Shikhar_Dhawan_India_ODI_CricketWhen I think of Shikhar Dhawan, the first thing that strikes me is his ever-smiling face. Be it after a win or a loss; after a century or an early dismissal, the stylish Punjabi lad in the Indian team is the most cheerful person in the dressing room.

He recently revealed the secret behind his positive attitude. He said he prefers to live in his own bubble because that helps keep his mind calm.

"First of all, I don't read newspapers and I don't take information which I don't want to. So I don't know what's happening around me and I live in my own world. So, I decide in which direction my thoughts are going," Dhawan said after recording his career-best ODI score of 143 off 115 balls during the fourth ODI between India and Australia.

His 16th ODI century came in a losing cause because the turmoil created by Ashton Turner won Australia the match as the tourists recorded their highest successful ODI chase of 359 runs. Despite the result, Dhawan would have breathed a sigh of relief on the personal front because he finally had produced a big knock following a string of poor scores.

The last series where Dhawan was on the top of the runs chart was the 2018 Asia Cup, which India won. The classy opener finished as the top-scorer with 342 runs. Since then, Dhawan had scored 377 runs in 16 innings at a dismal average of 25.13. Prior to the Mohali ODI, his scores in the last five innings—1, 21, 0, 6, and 13—indicated how much he was struggling.

Moreover, in the same time period where Dhawan suffered a lean patch, his opening partner Rohit Sharma scored in abundance. In comparison to Dhawan's 377 runs at 25.13, Rohit accumulated as many as 794 runs in 16 innings at an average of 56.71. Rohit and Dhawan's off-field bond reflects on the field, as the pair is currently the fourth best in ODIs. They have put together 4,526 runs for the first wicket. Their left-right combination sure has strengthened Team India in the batting department and the Mohali match was the 100th instance when they opened for India together.

Dhawan and Rohit complement each other with their different styles. Dhawan is appreciated for the way he scores run, Rohit's more for the number of runs he scores and how his big knocks look so effortless. They have their own strengths and weaknesses and both are an asset to the team, but Rohit is the luckier of the pair. If things don't click, Rohit gets away easily, while Dhawan comes under scrutiny more often.

With the World Cup approaching, Dhawan could not afford to find himself in the same old pressure-filled situation of proving his worth with the bat. He struggled in the home series against West Indies and then failed to do anything of significance when India created history by winning their first bilateral ODI series in Australia. He did score back-to-back fifties in New Zealand in the three-match ODI series, but those knocks came on flat pitches. Dhawan's struggle was against pace and off-spin.

KL Rahul, who was also fighting for the spot in the World Cup squad, did well in the two-match T20I series at home against Australia. Dhawan once again got dismissed for single digits in the first three ODIs against Australia. Keeping the World Cup and Dhawan's lean patch in mind, it seemed quite certain that Rahul would open with Rohit in the fourth ODI in Mohali. Fortunately for Dhawan, the team management and skipper Virat Kohli retained their faith in Dhawan.

In the initial overs, Dhawan once again looked to be struggling against Jason Behrendorff, who was able to swing the ball a bit. He managed to score just one run off the first 10 balls he had faced but then he began to charge against the other bowlers. Even when Aussie captain Aaron Finch had a well-covered field set up, Dhawan still managed to find the gaps and that showed 'Gabbar' was back to doing what his best - frustrating the opposition.

The Delhi batsman justified his selection in style as he struck 18 fours and three sixes en route to his highest ODI score of 143 at an excellent strike-rate of 124.35. Dhawan scored 63 percent of his runs through boundaries (90 runs out of 143) and this showed the impact he created on the top. He shared a 193-run stand with Rohit before the latter was dismissed.

Seven overs later, when Dhawan got out, the entire Mohali Stadium gave him a well deserving standing ovation as they chanted, "Gabbar, Gabbar."

There was never a doubt about Dhawan's presence in the 2019 World Cup. But his poor form with the bat was a worry, considering India are considered favourites, and a great start is always the base of a possible good total.

Dhawan was India's top-scorer in all the recent major tournaments India have participated in: the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, the 2013 & 2017 editions of the Champions Trophy, and the 2018 Asia Cup. This is testimony to his importance in India's batting line-up. His good form will only boost chances of the 2011 Champions winning in 2019.



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