Shikhar Dhawan provides answers after season of question mark | icc-champions-trophy-2017 | Hindustan Times
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Shikhar Dhawan provides answers after season of question mark

Shikhar Dhawan continued his good run of form on Thursday as he scored 125 to take India to 321 against Sri Lanka in an ICC Champions Trophy Group B game, which the islanders eventually won by seven wickets

icc champions trophy 2017 Updated: Jun 09, 2017 09:12 IST
India's Shikhar Dhawan celebrates reaching his century against Sri Lanka in Thursday’s ICC Champions Trophy 2017 match at The Oval.
India's Shikhar Dhawan celebrates reaching his century against Sri Lanka in Thursday’s ICC Champions Trophy 2017 match at The Oval.(REUTERS)

When Shikhar Dhawan grabbed headlines across the cricket world for the first time in 2013, it was for smashing the fastest Test century by a debutant, against Australia at Mohali.

However, the left-handed opener’s ODI career has been built more on his ability to build an innings than go hell for leather in the early overs when field restrictions are in place.

The 31-year-old was once again steady than flamboyant as his 125 (128 balls, 15x4, 1x6), and a second century partnership with Rohit Sharma, took defending champions India to 321 against Sri Lanka at The Oval, a match which the defending champions eventually slumped to a shock seven-wicket loss.

READ | Shikhar Dhawan continues ICC Champions Trophy love affair with splendid ton

The batting conditions were good, but still Lasith Malinga’s threat had to be countered. And Dhawan and Rohit Sharma continued to lay the foundation which fetched India their first outright ICC Champions Trophy victory, under MS Dhoni, in 2013.

There is something about ICC tournaments that brings certain calmness to Dhawan. He has been criticised for not sticking to percentage shots, and faced questions about his technique. This season, injury in the Kolkata Test against New Zealand kept him out of most of the 13 home Tests when he could have cashed in.

He returned for the ODI series against England but scored one and 11 to be dropped for the third and final game, when Ajinkya Rahane opened with KL Rahul.

READ | MS Dhoni reveals the toughest bowler he faced, and he is from Pakistan

There was a worry for Dhawan at that point that he would stay in the margins. However, Rahane’s poor form meant there was no jockeying for the slot to partner Rohit Sharma.

And Dhawan has made it count, scoring 40 and 60 in the warm-ups to get set for a repeat of the 2013 Champions Trophy run.

His 68 and a century opening stand with Rohit against Pakistan set the tone for an eventually easy win in the rain-hit game.

READ | Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan extend opening record in ICC Champions Trophy 2017

Dhawan has flourished whenever he has played a steady hand, and has not been under pressure to score quickly. Slow build-up was also India’s priority at the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and Dhawan was consistent, scoring 73, 137, 14, 9, 100, 4, 30 and 45 to help India reach the semis.

And the Delhi batsman has cashed in on pitches for Champions Trophy that have had a bit for the seamers but where one can trust the bounce, like in the 2013 tournament. Four years ago, Dhawan was on top of his game, aggregating 363 at an average of 97.5 while playing a big part in India’s win.

The next game against South Africa should provide a stiffer test as Kagiso Rabada and Co will be more aggressive, but India will hope Dhawan and Rohit Sharma stick to their plans that have worked superbly.