Features and Interviews
Tough series taught many lessons: Dhawan
India’s opening batsman tells us how he worked his way among runs after a long rut
“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.
Features and Interviews
Rahane keen to convert starts
Batsman vows to make his starts count; said he enjoyed opening the batting
Ajinkya Rahane had batted in the top-three all his life before he was converted into a middle-order batsman for India. Often batting at five in Tests and four in ODIs, Rahane was called upon to revisit the opening slot in the third ODI against England, at Trent Bridge to replace the injured Rohit Sharma.
And the Mumbai lad responded with a bristling 45 (56 balls) laced with attractiveness and aggression in equal measure. While his knock set the tone for India’s six-wicket win, Rahane was aware that he once again had wasted a fine start.
After his match-winning century in the Lord’s Test, Rahane has gone past 20 five times without converting it into a three-figure mark. In the second ODI too, he got out for 41.
In an interview with BCCI.TV, Rahane said these numbers are not lost on him. He vowed to sort the issue out. With his current form, he was confident that a big one is around the corner.
How was it opening the batting after so long?
I was really excited and enjoyed opening again. I knew I was batting well and I know the conditions well by now. I went in with a very positive mindset. I knew the ball swings a bit initially but I decided that I wouldn’t go into my shell. My first priority will be to score runs. I was determined to play my shots.
How do you have to adjust your mindset with the change in batting position?
When you’ve been batting at four and suddenly open for a match, it does require a lot of change in the mindset. To face the new ball, you need to go in with a different attitude as you would when you walk in to bat in the middle overs. However, it wasn’t that difficult for me because I am familiar with the opening slot.
You batted with two batsmen – Shikhar and Virat – who haven’t scored too many runs recently. As the in-form partner, what role do you play when batting with them?
Shikhar was actually batting well today. In ODI cricket, sometimes, even a good shot can get you out. I thought the shot that he got out to wasn’t a bad one. He played it well and it came from the middle of the bat. Unfortunately it went straight into the hands of the fielder.
As for Virat, there is nothing wrong with him. He is a fine player and he is actually looking good while he is out there batting. It’s tough on him that he is getting out cheaply despite batting well. This phase will only make him a much better cricketer. I don’t need to do much when it comes to giving him confidence as his batting partner because Virat is very aware of his game. He knows what he is doing and his confidence comes from that. The only discussion Virat and I had was that we will not let the England bowlers dominate us.
After the Lord’s century, one common factor about your innings is that you get a start and then get out softly. Is it a lapse in concentration?
To be honest, I too am wondering why this is happening with me and that too, so often. I think I need to make a conscious effort to bat very tight once I reach that stage of my innings. Saying that, I also need to ensure I don’t stop scoring completely and keep the run-flow going. I generally have a good concentration level and the lapses don’t happen often. This is a very strange phase for me. But I know that it is just a matter of one innings before I get past this issue. Once I cross the 50-60 mark, I am pretty sure I can go on to score a big one.
The team looks like a totally changed unit. The spring in the stride is back and the fielding is wonderful. What has changed?
The new boys who have joined the team, have brought in a lot of fresh energy. Also, talking about the fielding, we are a very good fielding side. Yes we didn’t do well in the Tests but that doesn’t make us a bad fielding unit. Mohit affected a brilliant run-out today and Raina took a superb catch in slip. We have made a conscious effort to be energetic on the field and back each other. Even while practicing, we are doing it with the same intensity that is required in a match. We were really hurt after what happened in the Test series but we knew that we have to move on. We helped each other in getting over the hurt and to channel our focus on the ODI series. When we won the second ODI, we prepared for this ODI from the scratch.