NORTH SOUND (ANTIGUA): India scoring at an acceptable run rate on the first day of the first Test in a four-match series against a lower-ranked team is expected. A little unexpected was all the jumping and hopping around to a fast bowler on a pitch expected to slow down over time.
Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane probably possessed more technical finesse and shots to choose from but Shikhar Dhaw an showed more discipline. And had Dhawan not held out against the temptation to hit out, the consolidation job could have become that much difficult for Virat Kohli. A century would have probably been a better individual achievement for Dhawan but this knock of 84 was almost as good as any he has played in recent years.
The discipline that governed Dhawan’s transformation in the IPL was the same that allowed him to play the waiting game on Thursday. Key to this transformation is the shuffle of stance. “I have brought that shuffle in my basics. I started doing that in IPL and I feel that it is working well for me at the moment,” Dhawan said.
But it wasn’t only about the shuffle. Dhawan took the pain to cut down the risky shots. He hardly played anything to his off-side, preferring to stay back in the crease and pull, cut or flick the ball according to the length. But it was only after Dhawan had been tested by bounce and pace of Shannon Gabriel.
Gabriel bowled to a plan. While Jason Holder was bowling a fuller length from the other end, Gabriel decided to pitch it shorter and caught Dhawan on his crosshairs. Dug in short, the first one reared up to catch Dhawan by surprise. Next delivery whizzed past Dhawan’s eyes. Dhawan was in more discomfort. “I was respecting the good balls and knew that I cannot afford to take a chance because there was extra bounce on the wicket. So I was playing close to my body and was not in a hurry and relaxed at the crease,” said Dhawan.
Ultimately it was Vijay who fell first. Carlos Brathwaite almost got through Dhawan’s defenses. Before that, Dhawan had edged Holder.
Introduction of Roston Chase gave India that much needed breather. Dhawan started cutting the ball better. His discipline against committing anything rash kept him afloat.