Opening batting is not easy, at times it also depends on the mentality of the batsman. The ball is hard and shiny, which may also help to score runs at a brisk pace but also gives the bowlers an edge. Succeeding at the top demands sound technique and temperament. Big tournaments like the ICC Champions Trophy and World Cup build solid pressure on the players to perform and very few manage to absorb and come out in flying colours.
Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan has been on the top of his game whenever the occasions turn into ICC Champions Trophy. He blasted 125 against Sri Lanka to script numerous records to his name and steer his side to a commanding position. Dhawan continued his good form after an emphatic 68 in the previous encounter against Pakistan and played an innings of substance and buoyancy. He was unlucky to have been dismissed off a full toss after playing a determined knock in the high-pressure game against Pakistan. Prior to the start of the tournament, Dhawan’s selection for the tournament was in jeopardy but an injury to KL Rahul cleared the air and Dhawan was on the plane to England.
But the southpaw has grabbed this golden opportunity with both the hands and left no stone unturned in his preparations for the big stage. Dhawan has a knack of performing in the Champions Trophy. In seven games that he has played in his career so far, Dhawan has garnered 556 runs at an awe-inspiring average of 92.66 and a blistering strike-rate of 100.90. With his century against Sri Lanka, Dhawan now has three tons to his name in the history of ICC Champions Trophy. He now finds himself in the league of Chris Gayle, Herschelle Gibbs and Sourav Ganguly for scoring the most number of centuries in the tournament.
It requires something exceptional to overhaul a record of the Indian skipper Virat Kohli. Dhawan with his latest ton has also taken over Kohli in terms of quickly reaching the landmark of 10 ODI tons. He achieved the milestone in 77 innings beating Kohli’s record of 80 innings; he is now the third fastest to have achieved the landmark. Dhawan had a terrific run in the recently concluded Indian Premier League, where he finished as the third highest run-scorer with 479 runs to his name.
Many often misinterpret Dhawan’s performance in the shorter format of Test cricket. His performance in whites may not have been impactful in the recent times but has always been a force to reckon in shorter formats. An opener with a healthy average of 43.26 has earned a reputation of getting his team good starts. Dhawan loves batting in England, it’s akin of him batting at home. Dhawan looks extremely comfortable while batting here, he has a positive mindset and brims with confidence. For the fact that, Dhawan averages 79 on the English soil speaks of his effectiveness. He has plundered 711 runs in 11 innings at a staggering average of 79, which includes three centuries and an equal number of half-centuries, in fact, his tally of 556 runs in seven Champions Trophy games also came on England soil. Not just that, Dhawan also loves batting against Sri Lanka in the ODIs, his average of 69.44 against them is a testament to it.
Dhawan backs himself at the top, he dares to take calculated risks and has often reaped results for it. His innings against Sri Lanka was pure class. Initially, he was connecting the ball well and took charge of scoring the runs but quickly adopted into the role of an anchor when India lost Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in quick successions. He also did the majority of the run-scoring when Yuvraj Singh was trying to get his eyes in but the latter failed to make an impact. And after the fall of Yuvraj Singh, Dhawan shouldered the responsibility to steer India to a comfortable position. He also shifted gears when needed and scored runs at a brisk rate in the end stages of his innings. Riding on his scintillating century, India posted a massive total of 321 in their 50 overs.
A successful opening pair eases a lot of pressure from the batting line-up. Rohit and Dhawan have combined really well at the top and got India off to good starts on a regular basis. They have stitched 656 runs partnership between them at the top in Champions Trophy, which hails of four-century stand – a record to boast of. Dhawan also boasts of the highest average of 79 in England for anyone who has minimum 500 runs to his name. But, as of now, Dhawan has made a name for himself in this tournament. He has played only seven games in the tournament and scored 556 and ninth on the table of highest run-scorer in the tournament with Chris Gayle being on the top. Dhawan is just 235 runs behind from Gayle’s tally of 791 runs and has also played the least number of games for the top 24 run-scorers.
Though India lost the encounter against Sri Lanka, this game will always be remembered for Dhawan’s memorable outing. India now have a mountain to climb against South Africa on Sunday, which is a virtual quarter-final for both the teams as the winner advances to the semifinal. Sri Lanka have given themselves a solid chance of making it to the semi-final. India will certainly want Dhawan to replicate his magical performance against South Africa in a do-or-die game and once again steer his side to command at the top.