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The Indian skipper reflects on his maiden double-ton and tells us how he manages to keep pressure at bay
“For me failure is not a bad thing, because it teaches you how to succeed.”
That is how Shikhar Dhawan summed up his England tour.
After a wretched Test series with the bat, where the opening batsman scored 122 runs in the first three matches before being dropped, Shikhar’s run of low scores continued in the second and third ODI, with 10 and 16.
However, he turned a corner in style at Edgbaston with a magical blend of sense and authority. With an easy pitch, the target a modest 207 and his opening partner, Ajinkya Rahane, on song, Shikhar had a golden opportunity to play himself back in form. And that’s just what he did.
The opener took his time to settle into his rhythm before unleashing the gems from his bat that were hidden for too long. The straight drives and the whacks over mid-wicket ruled his innings. And when he clobbered James Anderson over long-on for a six to bring up his fifty, the trademark smile was accompanied by a sigh of relief.
After batting India to a nine-wicket win to take the series 3-0 with a match to go, Shikhar spoke to BCCI.TV about his return to form and shared how he got out of the elongated run-less rut he found himself in.
Finally some runs under your belt. Relieved?
Yes, very relieved indeed. I kept practicing hard and kept believing in the process. I made a few minor changes in my technique. I opened up my shoulder a bit due to which the vision of the bowler and his arm improved a lot. It has also led me into playing straighter than before. I would like to thank the entire support staff and especially Ravi (Shastri) bhai, who has given us a lot of confidence since he has joined the team. A very big thanks to my family for standing by me.
Was this the perfect chance for you to get back in form – pitch was good, target was modest and Ajinkya took the pressure off you?
That is very correct. Ajinkya was in beautiful touch and the way he hit Anderson for those four fours in an over, it released all the pressure from us. I was not it bad touch myself but my flow wasn’t as good as his. So I kept taking singles at the other end and gave him most of the strike initially. It was the perfect partnership between us. The jugalbandi (a duet of two solo musicians) was brilliant.
Enjoyed that six over midwicket off the free hit? It was massive.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. When you get something for free, you enjoy it more (smiles). After that shot, I got into very good flow. So, we decided to take the batting powerplay. We wanted to finish on an aggressive note because with the match in the bag, it was a good opportunity for us to try out some big shots and learn how and when they work in the batting powerplay.
Are you a confidence player?
It’s right to say that. My game does depend a lot on confidence. Without confidence, I would not have been able to score runs today. To be honest, even during the Tests and in the first two ODIs, it wasn’t like I was struggling to put bat on ball. It happens with every batsman; sometimes despite feeling good in the nets, you don’t score runs in the match.
Once you fall into a rut where no matter how hard you try the runs don’t come for a long time, how difficult is it to get out of it?
It is difficult. You are trying everything you can to score runs – you’re working on your technique, preparing yourself mentally and doing everything right before a match. But still you go through one failure after another. At this time it is very important to have patience and keep the belief intact. All you can do is keep trying and keep working. Sometimes, you also have to admit that you are getting good balls and the opposition has your number. That’s what I tried to do. I didn’t over-think or get too frustrated; I worked hard wholeheartedly and prepared as smartly as I could, and then accepted that this is a bad phase and I have to get through it.
Is it tougher as an opening batsman – you have so much time on your hand to over think things?
It depends on individuals. For me, when I get out cheaply, I think about it for a while, see where I went wrong, figure out the ways to improve and then let it go. Once a moment has passed, I cannot bring it back. So, I prefer to live in the present. You feel bad and disappointed but at the end of the day the sooner you accept it, it will be easier to move ahead.
Tough phases teach us more than good ones do. What did you learn from his tour about your game?
You are right. When you are scoring runs, yourself and the others tend to overlook your technical deficiencies. It’s when the runs are not coming that even the minutest of flaws are viewed under the microscope. You look into your game and try to pick every single thing you can improve about it. At the end of it, you emerge as a better player than you were. For me failure is not a bad thing because it teaches you how to succeed.
What kind of awareness have you gained about your game on this tour?
I learned a lot about shot selection. I am now more aware of which balls I must play and leave. The straighter you play here, the better because the ball moves around. I also realized that even the smallest technical alteration can have a big impact on your game.
With the World Cup looming, how important does that make this series win?
It is very important. We are playing the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and six months before that, winning an ODI series in England so comprehensively, is a huge confidence booster. It is all the more special given how we bounced back from the disappointing Test series. What I will take back from here is the way the entire team stuck together despite what we went through. We stood by each other every single moment and helped each other move on. I am proud of these boys.
Ajinkya Rahane’s maiden One-day international century and an unbeaten 97 by Shikhar Dhawan led India to a nine-wicket win in the fourth ODI. Outplaying England for the third consecutive time, India registered a bilateral ODI series win in England after 24 years.
With a 183-run opening stand, Rahane and Dhawan helped India gallop to the target after the bowlers set up the match in their team’s favour. With yet another comprehensive win, Dhoni became the most successful captain for India in ODIs.
Earlier, after MS Dhoni opted to bowl, Bhuvneshwar Kumar sent back the England openers in the fifth over as the visitors bid to seal the series. While the wiry pacer finished with 8-3-14-2, Shami claimed three to help restrict the hosts to 206. Debutant Dhawal Kulkarni was the only Indian bowler to return wicketless as India wrapped-up the hosts innings with three balls to spare. Kumar struck early to leave England on 16/2 at Edgbaston. While the pacer knocked off Alex Hales’ middle-stump and disrupted the woodwork with an inswinger, Alastair Cook hit him to gully where Suresh Raina snapped the catch.
Seven runs later, Shami who had been hitting the deck hard from his first delivery accounted for the wicket of Gary Ballance who had replaced Ian Bell in the side. Ballance, who had been in sublime touch during the Test series hit the ball to cover leaving the side on 23/3.
Joe Root and Eoin Morgan were then made to toil hard for runs by the Indians. Playing watchfully, the pair scrapped together an 80-run partnership to keep the team in fray. They took England past the 100-run mark but Ravindra Jadeja claimed Morgan to end the partnership. Root followed suit 11 runs later, handing Suresh Raina an easy catch to depart for 44.
Moeen Ali then came to the crease and injected life into the England innings. He found the gaps to collect singles and doubles and later began to go for the big shots at regular intervals as he stitched a 50-run stand with Joss Buttler. The flourishing partnership was however brought to an end by Mohammed Shami trapping Buttler leg before for 11. Moeen Ali though continued to keep the scoreboard ticking to reach a well made half century.
Ali though ran out of partners as wickets began to tumble at the other end. Chris Woakes was run-out off a direct hit from Suresh Raina and seven runs later it was Ali who had to take the long walk back to the pavilion after being castled by R Ashwin. Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami then knocked of the remaining two wickets as England folded up for 206.
India’s run-chase was cautious. Openers Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan looked intent to put up a big opening stand in India’s pursuit of 207. After a circumspect start, Ajinkya Rahane began to unleash himself on the England pacers. With just four runs from the first four overs, the opener struck Anderson for four breathtaking boundaries in the fifth over to collect 16 from it. There was no looking back for him from there on. While Shikhar Dhawan bided his time at the other end, Rahane kept the scorers busy with his elegant batting. The left-hand batsman too caught up; slamming Woakes to the boundary on either side of the wicket.
With the Indian openers pilfering runs off the England pacers, Cook introduced Moeen Ali into the attack but without much respite. Rahane later pulled Finn to get within six short of fifty and a bit later swept Ali across the boundary to reach 53. Dhawan, who hadn’t been amongst runs, lofted Anderson into the stands to bring up his half-century.
While Rahane led the onslaught, Dhawan too gleaned runs off the opposition as they posted India’s highest opening partnership against England in England. With a four off Woakes, Rahane surpassed his previous best ODI score and came within eight runs of a century. A bit later, with two runs down the leg side off Woakes, the youngster brought up maiden ODI hundred. However, in the next over he found the fielder at cover point to depart for 106.
Having found his nick Dhawan was at his destructive best as he dismissed the bowlers to the ropes. He helped claim 17 off Woakes including two boundaries and a six. The left-hand batsman then took the team across the finishing line with Virat Kohli in a 29-run partnership.
Man of the Match: Ajinkya Rahane for his maiden ODI ton in a winning cause