There is a ritual among Bengalis called jamai shasthi (son-in-law and sixth day of the lunar cycle) where the son-in-law is fed to near death, although it is the mother-in-law who prays for his long life. Now, what is the link? Shikhar Dhawan is married to a Bengali, Ayesha Mukherjee, who lives in Melbourne. So, if the batsman visits his in-laws after Sunday’s heroics, the reception is likely to overwhelm him.
Dhawan wasn’t asked at the post-match presentation ceremony whether his century at the MCG had added significance and he didn’t bring up the topic. But just before leaving for celebrations in the dressing room, he grabbed the microphone from presenter Pommie Mbangwa, the former Zimbabwe pacer, and thanked the fans for turning up in numbers to support India.
Dhawan has struggled for runs since India arrived in Australia. He got some starts, but not a big one. The voices in favour of dropping him and trying out Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane as openers and bringing in Ambati Rayudu were growing. Had Rohit not got injured after the tri-series opener, Dhoni might have been forced to leave him out. Eventually the idea of going in with a left-right combination prevailed and Dhawan stayed on.
Against Pakistan, he was timing the ball well but a mix-up with Virat Kohli resulted in his run out. On Sunday, he was involved in another run out, this time Rohit backing up a long way. He was under pressure and the incident could have only added to it. But Shikhar looked positive and got support from Kohli and Rahane. His 137 turned out to be the difference between the two sides.
He acknowledged the team effort. “Virat was a great support early on because he was coming here on the back of a century, we were running between the wickets well today. Then when Ajinkya joined me he was on top of the bowling from the start and that took pressure off me,” he said.
After struggling against the short ball for the past three months, it was obvious the South Africa pacers would dig it in. Dhawan looked uncomfortable twice. Once he was struck on the visor and then on the glove. But he came back strongly, responding with a four in the same over after the first hit and a four off the very next ball the second time.
Dhoni, who had been patient for the opener to turn the corner, was pleased. “Shikhar batted really well. He was putting in effort at the nets and coming to form is just a matter of 15 to 20 minutes. Maybe the time he spent in the middle in the last game helped him. Today also he batted the way he normally does. He made sure once he got his hundred he was still there and so it was easier for the others.”
Video: Fans ecstatic as India breaks World Cup jinx against South Africa