Shikhar Dhawan had just hit the last three balls he faced for boundaries. The match was intense and was poised at a delicate situation for either side. That was when Angelo Mathews reintroduced Thisara Perera, his best bowler of the match thus far, into the attack. The Lankan all-rounder had a job on his hand. He had to stop the Dhawan juggernaut that seemed menacing enough to snatch away whatever little advantage Sri Lanka had gained after dismissing Virat Kohli for 0.
With a determined look on his face, Thisara steamed in and cramped Shikhar Dhawan for room first up. The Lankan bowler bettered his efforts on the second delivery as an attempted punch from the southpaw ricocheted off his inside edge and fell right besides the pitch. Thisara must have felt that he has put Dhawan under pressure.
At that moment of time, Dhawan decided to unleash his dancing skills. The ball was lying near the stumps and Dhawan pretended to take a run. The glimpse of him leaping in and out of his crease urged the fielder and bowler to rush towards the white object and stop a single. But Dhawan instantly saw that and burst into a laughter. Thisara, too, realised that the 31-year old was just having some fun and afforded a smile when the Delhi batsman picked and tossed the ball back to him.
Dhawan is an exuberant character. May it be a joke from the slip cordon or a uplifting comment from the non striker's end. His celebrations always crack up his teammates and the fans. Such is his ebullience that his moustache twirling became the talk of the town after he slammed his maiden Test century against Australia. It also earned him his nickname - Gabbar.
But it was not so long ago that he was having a lean patch in Test cricket. His barren form also had consequences on his ODI career, a format in which he had been most consistent. But such was his struggle in the longest format of the game, that he was up fighting for a spot in the playing eleven in England ODI series in 2017. It could be the pressure of maintaining his place in the team or just pure form that in the two opportunities he got against Eoin Morgan and Co, his returns were 1 and 11. He was subsequently dropped from the side and a month later Abhinav Mukund was recalled into the Indian Test squad against Australia which indicated that selectors were looking past him for the opener's role.
It becomes difficult for an international cricketer to remain motivated after being snubbed from the national side and perform well in the domestic circuit to make a comeback. Playing in front of full capacity crowds becomes a habit especially in India. The fans applauding for every single taken could almost be taken for granted. The fame (and scrutiny) that comes along with it is altogether different. The thought of playing in empty stadiums where only a handful of claps follow after playing a gorgeous straight drive must be excruciating. The best of personalities would have bogged down to the depressing situation. But not Dhawan.
He kept his head down and he returned to play for the North Zone in the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament. However, the start of preparations to break into the Indian squad weren't that inspiring for the Delhi batsman. He amassed only 110 runs in four matches at a strike rate of 111.11 in the T20 domestic competition. He also failed to impress in Vijay Hazare Trophy. But he struck form in Deodhar Trophy and was only second to Dinesh Karthik on the run charts. A fantastic 2017 Indian Premier League season just sealed the deal for him as he was named in the Indian squad for the Champions Trophy.
"I don’t know why people feel failure is a bad thing. When you fail, only then can you enjoy the taste of success. When one fails for 8 to 10 times then the feel of the success on the 11th time would be different. One would enjoy that success more than being successful for 11 out of 11 times. That is natural. Every coin has two sides. It cannot happen that if you are successful, you won’t fail," a philosophical Dhawan quipped to Cricbuzz.
However still doubts were raised whether he could repeat his 2013 Champions Trophy heroics again. But within 10 balls after starting his innings against Sri Lanka, the southpaw looked good for a big knock. Although he changed the tempo of his innings after he noticed that Rohit Sharma was striking the ball cleanly and was taking the attack to the opposition. He was more than happy to play the second fiddle. But as soon as Rohit fell, he changed gears to allow Yuvraj Singh some time in the middle before taking the back seat once again after MS Dhoni's arrival.
On Thursday he joined the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Herschelle Gibbs and Chris Gayle for scoring the most centuries in the Champions Trophy when he slammed his 3rd century. He also became the fastest Indian to score ten ODI centuries and broke captain Virat Kohli's record. The century might have ended in a losing cause but it is an indication of the things to follow. From being a doubtful starter in January to becoming the team's most consistent batsman of the tournament, Dhawan's improvement is a testimony to his mental strength and bouncebackability.
The persiflage with Thisara also exhibited the old cheerful Dhawan in the Champions Trophy 2017. It was a trait which was missing when he underwent a rough phase during the last few months. Now that it has come back Dhawan should ensure that it doesn't fade away anytime soon.