It could easily have slipped to the background in the wake of India’s massive victory in the fourth Royal London ODI match at Edgbaston in Birmingham but left-handed Shikhar Dhawan drew attention to a beautiful aspect of the stand by making it a point to pay his opening partner Ajinkya Rahane a genuine compliment.
“He was in great flow from the start and hitting boundaries. It released pressure off me and I could take my time to get into a flow. We both enjoy each other’s batting. It was fabulous to watch him make a hundred,” Dhawan said, not hesitating to give credit due to his fellow opener, though nobody would have notice had he chosen to ignore that.
Indeed, sometime in the future, when Dhawan sits back to ruminate on turning points in his career, it is possible that he will put his finger on his rollicking 183-run opening stand with Rahane at Edgbaston as a decisive moment in his nascent international career. Rahane not only notched up his maiden century in ODIs but also helped unshackle some demons for Dhawan.
Typically, opening batsmen like Virender Sehwag and Dhawan are known to take the pressure off other batsmen by scoring quickly at the start but the left-hander appeared stranded at a cross-roads with a dismal run over the past two months when his technique and mental strength came under the scanner.
In fact, for someone who made just 149 runs in eight international innings on the tour of England, Dhawan was on a shaky ground but Rohit Sharma’s broken finger meant that India persisted with the left-handed opener. Yet, he could have been riddled with self-doubts, especially after failing in successive ODIs in Cardiff and Nottingham.
He needed to stay long enough to benefit from someone taking on pressure. Rahane took the onus of scoring briskly in the first few overs and relieved Dhawan, giving the left-hander time to find his wanton touch. And though he had picked up a couple of boundaries off Harry Gurney, it was not until Chris Woakes’ first over that Dhawan came into his own.
As he grew in confidence, Dhawan showed glimpses of the batsman who had gone missing during the tour. The four sixes that he hit in making an unbeaten 97 were testimony to the power that he can generate. The flurry with which he finished the game, scoring 28 of the 29 runs in Virat Kohli’s company was typical Dhawan – and a tribute to Rahane’s contribution.
At the end of the game, Dhawan was quick to acknowledge how Rahane had helped take a load off his shoulders. It was a delight to hear the Delhiite and the Mumbaikar wax eloquent about enjoying the other’s batting. There was respect and admiration in their voices as Dhawan and Rahane spoke about the partnership and one another.
It was the second time in two games that players were brazenly expressing admiration for team-mates. After Suresh Raina lunged to his right at slip to pick up a smart, low catch to dismiss Ben Stokes at Trent Bridge, off-spinner R Ashwin spoke glowingly about that effort and how it made him forget that he himself had claimed a wicket when celebrating the catch.
This can only augur well for India’s ODI team as it gears itself up to retain the ICC Cricket World Cup that the class of 2011 won at home. It can counter-balance some of the negatives that are apparent, especially when it comes to picking reserves who can push the frontliners hard enough. This camaraderie and synergy can be fantastic fuel indeed.