Opener Shikhar Dhawan, whose 98 off 106 deliveries earned him Man-of-the-Match award, played an innings that was calculated, patient and one that provided the platform for the latter batsmen to go after the English bowlers.
For a batsman, who has often been blamed for being too aggressive and sometimes reckless, it was an innings that showcased enormous self-control even though he gave a couple of chances that the Englishmen couldn’t take (when on 16 and 60). He played out a maiden from Sam Curran, the innings’ fourth to show no desperation.
“Today, it was seaming and swinging, so it didn’t make sense to go hard after the bowling. My plan was to just stay and see off [the difficult phase]. We knew we could catch the runs later on. If the wicket was supporting batsmen early on, we would have gone for the runs right from the start,” Dhawan told the media after the match.
“As an experienced player, I know how to handle pressure. What shots to play on what kind of wickets. We read wickets nicely and understand it. That is what we did and it worked for us,” he added.
Dhawan was sedate at the start. He got his first seven runs off 23 deliveries before he unleashed a couple of boundaries. The left-handed opener often shouldered arms to deliveries, as India build a solid start. He and Rohit Sharma put on 64 runs for the first wicket in 15 overs. By the 30th over, India were already past 150 with the loss of Sharma’s wicket.
“If you think it is difficult [reading and playing on wickets], it is difficult. If you think it is not difficult, then it isn’t difficult. The ball was swinging. But pressure wasn’t there [due to our experience], we knew we will make it later,” he added further. “We knew we had to stay at the wicket and play close to the body.”
The 35-year-old left-hander said that he kept himself positive while being benched in the T20I series.
Dhawan has been a heavy scorer for Delhi Capitals in Indian Premier League, but his form in India jersey has been up and down.
Dhawan’s ODIs performance has been good, though prior to Tuesday’s game he had only played nine ODIs since June 2019, after sustaining thumb injury during a World Cup match against Australia and also because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In two of those ODis he did not bat, including once due to another injury.
He got scores of 2, 36, 74, 96, 74, 30 and 16 in the seven times he batted before Tuesday in ODIs, averaging 46.85.
“I kept myself quite positive, I was focussing on the process, fitness, skills, and tried to be in a good mental space. I knew if I get an opportunity, I will take it.”
Dhawan was effusive in his praise of the India youngsters.
“It feels great to see their confidence. They play domestic cricket and IPL, both of which helps them. The IPL exposure with great players and coaches prepares them to face pressure situations. Then our domestic cricket is also a great structure. The mix of the two is helping us.”