Duck debut to typhoon ton debut

Calcutta, March 16: "This is..." Before Yuvraj Singh could complete the sentence, a voice behind me said: "Hi, I'm Shikhar Dhawan.…"

Don't know why Dhawan assumed he wouldn't be recognised, at the ITC Gardenia in Bangalore last August, but after such a stunning Test debut, he won't have to introduce himself to anybody.

Dhawan had then been training at the NCA and was Yuvraj's partner both at the gym and in the pool. He'd push Yuvraj, then getting ready for an India comeback, hard.

Actually, Dhawan was himself preparing to return to the India dressing room. It took him time (around 20 months after his last ODI), but what an innings in Mohali!

Suresh Raina, the last Indian to score a hundred on Test debut till Dhawan's record-smashing unbeaten 185 this afternoon, had an interesting story.

Speaking from Nagpur, Raina, who has captained India in ODIs, told The Telegraph: "I recall Dhawan being devastated after a duck on his ODI debut, against Australia.…

"But his mood lifted after I assured him that hard work would pay off.… That I'd myself got a duck on my India debut (ODI against Sri Lanka).… Dhawan went away promising not to give up.… He's produced such a gem now."

Raina had summed it up well, but V.V.S. Laxman, a stalwart in his own right, acknowledged that "no matter what you say, it just won't be enough for a brilliant debut.…"

With the experience of over eight years of first-class cricket, the 27-year-old Dhawan didn't allow "nervousness" to get the better of him on the biggest stage.

Dhawan's wife, incidentally, is an Australian citizen, but she'd been praying for him and he thanked her the most.

Had Australia appealed, Dhawan would have been run out without facing a ball, but Michael Clarke made the point that cricket still is a gentleman's game (on most occasions, at least).

Back in his room at the JW Marriott in Chandigarh, Clarke may be cursing himself, but that's another matter and, possibly, a chapter in his autobiography.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni would have done the same, though.

Exhibiting fearlessness more associated with the West Indies batsmen of a different generation, Dhawan launched into the Australians with such power and timing that Clarke and coach Mickey Arthur must have regretted punishing James Pattinson, their best bowler.

Some have been talking about the T20 influence on Dhawan's game, but a massive percentage of his hits were excellent cricket shots.

Often, Dhawan's audacity left one breathless. Wanting more, too. That he pulled so effectively suggests he'll be a success even in South Africa and Australia, where wickets really test batsmen from the subcontinent.

Dhawan's first 50 came off 50 balls, the next 50 took only 35. He required 46 more to get to 150 and, by stumps on Day III of the third Test, had faced 168 balls.

It takes something very special to score a hundred in one session, with the ball rather new.

The amazing strike rate (in excess of 110) should fast-track Dhawan's return to the ODI and T20 XIs as well.

As significant, Virender Sehwag can give up hopes of a quick comeback. He'd featured in the first two Tests, with Dhawan taking his place in Mohali.

With Dhawan in absolute command and Murali Vijay happy being an effective silent partner, India reached 283 for no loss at close.

As many as 418 runs were scored during the day. Sadly, few passed through the turnstiles. Those who stayed away missed an innings of a lifetime.


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