Before their last Ranji league game in December, Delhi's critics were clamouring for skipper Shikhar Dhawan's head.
His nicknames, like 'Gabbar', within the camp referred to a man who took uncalculated risks far too often.
The Delhi chairman of selectors Chetan Chauhan
had strong views on how he was squandering bright starts. Despite that, Chauhan once quipped, "He has the potential to turn the game on its head."
That game provided a hint of what Chauhan meant. Delhi needed 270 on a seamer-friendly track on the last day against Maharashtra, and Dhawan delivered with ease, pacing his century-knock exceptionally well.
Dhawan was back in business a few days later, hammering a ton as Delhi XI thrashed England in a warm-up. In the Irani Cup too, he made a brisk 63 in the first innings before chopping the ball onto his stumps.
"He is like that from the start, very aggressive. But he has a lot more strokes than many others," said Madan Sharma, who has coached him since he was 11.
Dhawan was the highest run-getter in the 2004 U-19 World Cup but "some of his teammates like Suresh Raina and Robin Uthappa got in immediately, but he had to wait till 2010 for a brief chance in ODIs. Then, the Viru-Gauti pair was already established," adds Sharma, who still plays host to Dhawan's practice sessions at his new academy in west Delhi.
Dhawan's poor performance, like in the 2011-12 season, kept the attention off him. But this season has been good. And it hasn't been just off the field. He got married in a hurried ceremony early during the first-class season, which saw him missing a warm-up tie against England in late October, before dashing off for the next warm-up for Mumbai where he failed.
Despite his talent, he is known to miss out on crucial games, especially those that matter in selection. The selectors perhaps thought to look beyond that facet when they finally picked him on Sunday.
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