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Dhawan’s blast from the past

The India opener was happy to be back in the mix and among runs as he notched up his highest Test score with fluent ease

By Anand Subramaniam in
It was 14 innings ago that Shikhar Dhawan last scored a Test ton. A kind of Déjà vu as he notched up his 5th Test century at a venue he had fond memories of. It was at Galle when he got an opportunity to remove his helmet and raise his bat to the gallery and the moment was there to be relived in this very venue as he demolished the Sri Lankan attack into submission with a whirlwind 190. It was an innings that even had flashes of his epic 187 that he got on debut against Australia in Mohali.

He got a reprieve while batting on 31, was dropped at second slip by Asela Gunaratne, but apart from that it was an innings that hardly had any flaws. Dominant as he is known for, confident; as he has tried to be each time he has walked out to bat and fluent when you know the Shikhar Dhawan willow is working its magic. That this century would have tasted great is a given. After all, he had to sit out for 11 Test matches to get back in whites battling injury and form.

“When I wasn’t scoring runs, I had a good thought about that phase,” Dhawan said. “I knew that if I wasn’t going to score runs, I could get out of the side. Of course, I felt that pressure at that moment. And when I got out of the Test side, it hurt me. But then, I moved on and I started playing domestic cricket, for the Delhi team and I was enjoying myself there. I knew that if things have to come, they will come my way. I don’t want to run around things too much. I am going to keep doing my work, follow my process and I love doing my fitness and work on my skill level.”

A highlight of Dhawan’s batting was the confidence he showed against the spinners. Often stepping down, getting into comfortable positions while playing the sweep and eyeing his attack according to field placements. He was severe against Rangana Herath scoring 51 against him with a total of nine boundaries. Herath had dismantled the Indian line-up in the visitors’ last visit to Galle but that was not to be; at least for now as he went wicket-less on Day 1. For Dhawan, the sweep was a go-to shot which he implemented to full effect during his course to 190.

“I am a good sweeper and that is my strength and I use it. Today, they bowled more on my leg-side and when it comes to that part of the ground, I can sweep very well. I planned my sweep shots against them.”

With not much in the wicket and the ball not turning sharp, Dhawan used it to full advantage displaying his full array of stroke-play. He marched his way from one milestone to the other with ease and looked poised for a double century. He fell agonizingly 10 short of a deserved double ton. Not surprisingly, he was disappointed to have missed out on a bigger score that was there for the taking.

“Of course, I was disappointed that I got out for 190. I would have loved to have scored a 200 or a 300. But more than that, I got out at the wrong time. It was the last over before tea. But the way I was playing, I was confident that I could clear the mid-off fielder and I was almost hitting a boundary every over. I was in that zone and I backed myself. Unfortunately, it didn’t go my way. A bit disappointed that I couldn’t score 200 but happy and thankful to God that I scored 190.”