How drastically things can change in a couple of weeks. Till a few days back, Shikhar Dhawan's lack of form was the biggest concern for India going into the World Cup. Critics, including this writer, were all over him, and rightly so. India could not go into the World Cup with an opener who was looking absolutely clueless against the new ball. But, in the wake of what Dhawan has produced in the first two matches of the World Cup, MS Dhoni and the Indian think-tank must be given due credit for sticking with him through an elongated lean patch. The faith placed in Dhawan by all these men has been repaid, and now India would be desperate for him to carry on this superlative form into the rest of the series.
To his credit, Dhawan has made a conscious effort to work his way out of a slump. He was aware going into the World Cup that the line outside off-side was going to be his weak zone. So far he has managed to keep the bowlers at bay, and has done so by making a concerted effort to leave balls outside the off stump, or play them close to his body. His technique remains susceptible under the conditions, but for the time being, he has managed to work his way around it. Unlike in Tests, in ODIs, bowlers cannot keep targeting you outside the off stump, if the desired results are not being produced. This is where Dhawan has been smart. He has forced the bowlers to bowl where he likes it, rather than the other way round.
Patience has been the key to both his successful knocks in the World Cup so far. Unlike in the tri-series, where he was trying to hit himself out of form, the southpaw has been happy spending time at the crease. Like at Adelaide, in Melbourne as well, runs were hard to come by for the left-hander. But, he was happy to hang around, and wait for the loose balls. Of course, once he crossed his hundred, and the pressure was off, he unleashed some of his trademark attacking strokes. But, that was least surprising. Everyone is aware what Dhawan is capable of. It was the manner in which he fought it out in the middle under adverse circumstances that stood out.
With the kind of display Dhawan has put up in the first two games, he has demonstrated how mentally strong he is as a person. He would clearly have been under extreme pressure going into the tournament. A number of former players and critics alike had pointed out to the fact that India had ignored the in-form Murali Vijay for the tournament, and that it could prove to be a costly mistake. No one expected Dhawan to score a run in the World Cup, such were his woes in the Tests and the tri-series. Many went to the extent of claming that Dhawan's presence will significantly hamper India's already troubled World Cup defence. The reality has been completely opposite.
Looking back, the half-century Dhawan made in the first warm-up game against Australia can be termed a significant turning point. It was the first time he really looked in some kind of control out in the middle since the Brisbane knock. Importantly, he spent some quality time out in the middle even as India lost the match easily. The knock gave Dhawan some much-needed assuredness. They say luck also plays a significant role in changing fortunes. The saying came true at Melbourne as Hashim Amla dropped Dhawan on 53, and opener went on to register his highest one-day score. With that match-winning effort, he silenced his critics, and how...
--By A Cricket Analyst