Mind over matter for Dhawan

That Shikhar has been scaling the peaks has a lot to do with mental tightening.

Quotes | Dhawan's feat | Pictures

Dhawan's electrifying Test debut continues to buoy him to greater deeds.

From the time he burst on to the international scene with a blistering hundred on Test debut versusAustralia some six months ago, Shikhar Dhawan, true to his name, has been scaling the peaks. 

He was Man of the Series in India’s triumphant Champions Trophy campaign in England. He followed that up with another nonplussed century in Zimbabwe. And come the ‘A’ Triseries tour of South Africa, Dhawan bludgeoned 248, the second-highest score ever in a limited-overs match, against the hosts.

It was a knock of especial confidence and brutality. But those are the very qualities that that one has come to associate with the Delhi opener since he was propelled into the limelight in March.

Dhawan’s introduction to the hurly burly of international cricket, however, was not as auspicious. His ODI debut in 2011 yielded a two-ball duck and four more matches over the next nine months indicated very little of his mammoth influence at the domestic level.
So, what changed in 2013? Was it a refurbished outlook, or a revamped technique, that helped him conquer a swathe of international bowling like it was the easiest thing to do?  

All in the mind

Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, domestic giant and former India wicketkeeper Vijay Dahiya held that it was mainly a matter of outlook.

“I have not seen him batting before the way he is now, even in the nets," Dahiya told ESPNcricinfo. "That kind of batting display is just phenomenal. There is no comparison. Last year, he had a pretty mediocre Ranji season, if you go by the standards he is setting right now, which I think is alright for an opener in Indian first-class cricket when you end up playing seven-eight games. But what he is doing right now is something really special."

India ‘A’ coach Lalchand Rajput maintained that Dhawan’s case was one of feeding and thriving on confidence. 

“One good innings against Australia in the Test match ... Cricket is a game of confidence. If you are confident, you bat like a dream. Plus, playing the way he did in England in the Champions Trophy ... He has gone from strength to strength and is batting at his peak now."

Dahiya agreed. “I think it is more mental. I'll say that skill-wise, he was the same. What I see now is that mentally he has become very strong. He is backing himself. He is extremely confident, which plays such an important role in any sport. He is playing all the shots against all bowlers in any conditions. That shows how confident he is.”

Tightened his game

“Also, I don't think he is carrying any baggage. That is something you can't see from the outside yet - the baggage of expectations. Every time he goes out there, he starts beautifully, understands what is required, and goes on from there. He takes his time to build and then flourishes," Dahiya added.        

Rajput said that Dhawan had used his time away from the national side to tighten his game. Not too long ago, the southpaw had struggled on an ‘A’ tour of the West Indies that he finished on a miserable average of 7.50.

"It is not only mental, it is about selecting the right balls (to hit) as well. He has matured now and is never satisfied. He wants to do well every game. Look at his conversion rate. If he passes 50 or 60, he gets a hundred, in Champions Trophy, in Zimbabwe, now as well, big hundreds.”

"In the West Indies [in 2012], he used to play too many shots too early, and as an opener, that is taking too much risk. He always had the shots but not the selection, but now he knows what shot to play and what to not play. He has really developed control over his off-side game," Rajput said.