M A I N   N E W S

Dhawan the demolition man
Bludgeons Aussie attack, slams fastest century ever by a Test debutant 
Rohit Mahajan
Tribune News Service

Mohali, March 16
Shikhar Dhawan, India’s pony-tailed and moustache-twirling debutant, is a curious blend of bravado and humility. He is apt to address you as “sir”, but enjoys a reputation as tough man who cares little for the consequences when there’s a scrap. He’s apt to blast an international bowling attack to bits and then look at the pieces in astonishment — “Did I cause this?” He’s likely to — in the manner of Virender Sehwag, the man he replaced in the Indian XI —smash a century off just 85 balls and then say: “The fours were going on their own after the ball hit the bat… Maybe that’s why you thought I was in a hurry.”

Perhaps he didn’t intend to be fast, perhaps time and noise was stilled by the force of his ambition; perhaps he was in that space called the zone, where ensues perfection.

Yet, Dhawan was definitely fast today, breathtakingly fast. He had knocked up 185 runs from 168 balls at stumps; Murali Vijay had faced 13 balls more and made 102 runs fewer. India had piled up 283 without loss at the end of the day off 58 overs, after Australia extended their innings to 408 all out. As India began the chase, a draw seemed the most probable outcome, with just two days of play after today. Yet, the openers were batting on speed. By the day’s end, they’ve created a possibility of an Indian win.

Dhawan hit the sixth ball he faced in Test cricket for a lovely four through the covers. That was the beginning of a torrent that became a flood. His first 50 came off 50 balls and included 12 fours; he raced through the 60s to the 90s in 15 balls; he reached his 100 off 85 balls, with 21 fours and a five —that’s 89 of the first 104 runs. It was stunning, yet it wasn’t a case of merely muscular, blind hitting. Dhawan timed the ball perfectly, a mere touch and the ball fairly raced toward the ropes.

He didn’t have to complete his strokes with a flourish or an arching swing. Most often, his punches and placements had no follow through at all. Through the tight off-side, he manoeuvred the ball with precision and skill, effortlessly weaving a complex tapestry. They were all excellent cricket shots, none of them hit in the air before he reached his 100. There was just one half-chance, when Phil Hughes at gully, diving to his right, got his fingertips to a drive flying to his right.

His one moment of desperation came when he moved from 99 to 100, tapping the ball and sprinting and diving to escape being run-out. Then he, slowly and carefully, took off his helmet and raised his arms skyward and bellowed in joy and relief, finishing with a winning smile.

Dhawan is 27, a somewhat advanced age to make a Test debut. He got into the Indian Test team due to the bad form of his two Delhi mates, Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. But he’s played for India in one-day cricket, without much success — 69 runs from five innings, average 13.8.

He said he was nervous today, for his ODI debut against Australia ended in disaster, out without scoring. Today was a different day, and a different attack — possibly Australia’s worst ever bowling line-up in India, rookies bowling nervously and with profligacy. The pitch was flat, the bowling notches below world-class. Yet, the nerveless Dhawan must be credited for making it count, and closing the debate over India’s opening options, for now.

For the record

Shikhar Dhawan has become the 13th Indian batsman to post a hundred on Test debut and the 10th Indian batsman to register a century in his debut innings

His unbeaten 185 is the highest score by an Indian debutant, bettering the 137 made by GR Viswanath in 1969

The partnership of 283 between Dhawan and M Vijay is the highest for India against Australia

His first 50 came off 50 balls and included 12 fours; he raced through the 60s to the 90s in 15 balls.





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