In Pant’s absence, Dhawan switches to fourth gear

Saturday’s feat is important for Dhawan because there was always confusion over his role at the top of the order

In Pant’s absence, Dhawan switches to fourth gear

Delhi Capitals player Shikhar Dhawan plays a shot during their IPL T20 cricket match against Chennai Super Kings at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah on Saturday, October 17, 2020. (PTI Photo/Sportzpics for BCCI)

New Delhi, October 18

Shikhar Dhawan powered Delhi Capitals (DC) to a convincing victory over Chennai Super Kings (CSK) on Saturday night with his first century in T20 format.

While it took him 167 IPL innings to breach the three-figure mark for the first time, the longest in league’s history, it took him 265 T20 innings to reach his first career century in the shortest format of the game.

Saturday’s feat is important for Dhawan because there was always confusion over his role at the top of the order — whether it was to go after the bowling right from the start or play himself in and then open up.

Last year, DC coach Ricky Ponting had said in a media conference at the Feroz Shah Kotla during the league phase that Dhawan needed to increase his strike rate as Rishabh Pant, a quick-scorer, can’t always succeed. This season, with Pant out injured now, Dhawan has had to raise the gears earlier over the last couple of games.

“The wicket was slow, our plan was to cash-in on the first six overs,” Dhawan said in the post-match presser after Saturday’s match.

Delhi Capitals had opener Prithvi Shaw in the first over but Dhawan still managed to find some boundaries.

“Unfortunately, we lost two wickets and things went a bit slow at the start. We knew we were chasing a big target then we hit (some) boundaries,” he added.

With Shaw, Ajinkya Rahane gone and skipper Shreyas Iyer still finding his feet by the end of the power-play, Dhawan had done well to keep the run rate going with 24 off 16 balls. Next over, he survived a chance but hit 12 over five deliveries to keep the team going.

“He was playing aggressively, so they were able to stay up with the rate which was a big factor. If we could have got him early and put a little bit of pressure on their middle to lower order, the game might have been different,” said CSK coach Stephen Fleming.

The left-handed opener began the IPL with average scores, not able to power on. His strike rate didn’t cross 130 in any of the first six games except one and he was not able to score even one half-century. A 69 off 52 balls against Mumbai Indians in the seventh game was deemed slow as Delhi Capitals couldn’t build a big enough target.

However, Dhawan hit the top gear against Rajasthan Royals, smashing a 33-ball 57.

“It was a conscious effort (to go after bowling in the powerplay)…it was important to score runs in the first six overs,” Dhawan had said after the last game against RR.

The team could still make 161 but thanks to Anrich Nortje and their bowling, DC managed to win.

Saturday’s game though needed him to stay till the end, scoring fast, after the fall of early wickets as the target was big. Thanks to a few dropped catches, he managed to survive till the end and get his first T20 century.

His childhood coach Madan Sharma told IANS that Dhawan’s natural game isn’t power-hitting from the word go. “He likes to settle in and then score big. His game isn’t about going after the bowling from the word go,” says Sharma who feels Dhawan will have to go against his nature to go bang-bang from the start.

But with Pant not in the side now, he may have to be more aggressive throughout the tournament and still aim to score big considering that his aggressive opening partner Shaw has been blowing cold of late and Rahane, more of a grafter, walks in at No. 3. IANS

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