Long practice sessions in the scorching sun notwithstanding, the think-tanks of the both the India and Australia teams made a late visit to the cricket ground at Visakhapatnam on Tuesday evening. With Wednesday's fixture being the first day-night match at the venue, no one was sure exactly how much dew there would be in the evening, and what role it would play and how it would influence the decision of the captain winning the toss. While senior players and coaches grappled with this, there were a few youngsters for whom the night could not pass quickly enough.
Lead among them was 24-year-old Shikhar Dhawan, who, through fortuitous circumstances, has broken into the toughest section of Indian cricket – opening the batting in ODIs. With Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag usually firmly in harness, and Gautam Gambhir having to play down the order, the near future did not look bright for young opening batsmen trying to break into the India team.
The need to rest players has left Dhawan in a firm position to make his India debut, but don't believe it’s mere luck that has got him there. The powerful left-hander first came into the limelight when he was top scorer in the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh in 2003-04. He proved that was no fluke, becoming the highest run-getter in a strong Delhi Ranji Trophy team, ending his maiden year with 461 runs. Things got even better in 2007-08 when Dhawan scored 570 runs in Delhi's successful campaign.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni knows just how good Dhawan can be, having opened the batting with him for India Seniors in the Challenger Series in 2005. Dhawan made a 124-ball 126, Dhoni crashed 102 off 96 balls, and it was Dhoni who got the India call-up. “Both of us scored centuries in that Challenger match in Mumbai and I got a chance to play for India because I was a wicketkeeper-batsman. I was competing with five or six players for a spot, but as a batsman Dhawan had to deal with more competition and had to do consistently well,” said Dhoni. “It is good that he has got the chance finally and I am hoping he will score and the bench strength will become a bit stronger.”
Dhoni has already indicated that Saurabh Tiwary should get a game in this series, and that R Ashwin could have a crucial role to play. In the Australian camp, though Doug Bollinger had his first bowl since picking up an abdominal strain in Mohali, young left-arm quick Mitchell Starc was in line to make his debut. With this in mind, quite a few young cricketers camping in Visakhapatnam might have suffered a restless night.