A few weeks ago, Shikhar Dhawan was under huge pressure to perform. The slump had come at the biggest stage, in the middle of India’s World T20 campaign. It came as no surprise when he was excluded for the semi-final, replaced by Ajinkya Rahane, who had been waiting in the wings for a time.
With competition for the top-order slots growing, and the poor run stretching into the Indian Premier League (IPL), Dhawan seemed to be in danger of being relegated to the fringes when it came to the national team call-up.
In the initial stages of IPL 9, Dhawan was ordinary. He had single-digit scores in the first three games. The pressure to perform was at its peak.
Despite the unbearable tension, Dhawan regained his composure, performing admirably in the games that have followed. On Sunday, he brought up his fifth 45-plus score in six innings, with an unbeaten 57-ball 82.
It was not an innings of desperation. Dhawan was willing to build his innings before going after the bowling. And it was chanceless barring a difficult chance late in the innings. More importantly, the knock set up a comprehensive victory for Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Overshadowed by opening partner David Warner’s aggressive batting, Dhawan has quietly added runs. There is a distinct change in how he bats. Warner’s pyrotechnics have played a part, reducing the weight of expectations from Dhawan, giving him space to regain his game.
In the IPL, a more measured and patient Dhawan has come to the fore. On Sunday, he kept the scoreboard ticking, and refrained from slogging.
He hit 10 fours but just one six. He was part of two 85-run partnerships, with Warner and Yuvraj Singh. The 30-year-old was not only the architect of this effort, but he stepped out of Warner’s shadows for the first time in this edition.
Over the years, IPL has become a major platform for selectors to assess performances before picking the limited-overs teams. While Dhawan’s form in the lead up to the event was not good, Ajinkya Rahane and then KL Rahul churning out big runs meant the left-handed opener had to respond quickly.
And Dhawan is on the right path.