CARDIFF (TIP): In the middle of all the madness surrounding cricket, if there’s one man having a blast, he’s Shikhar Dhawan. Confined to the first-class circuit for years, tagged a wasted talent and blamed for his off-the-field eccentricities, he’s emerged from those shadows to shine in the brightness of his abilities. He began the year 2013 with a bang, cementing his place in the squad after that spectacular century in his debut Test against Australia, and is now opening the innings for India in the Onedayers.
On June 6 at the Sophia Gardens, in the opening match of the Champions Trophy against South Africa here, he continued in that same vein of form, scoring 114 runs off just 94 balls inclusive of 12 fours and a six that pushed the opposition into a corner early in the game. Riding on his entertaining innings, India posted a healthy 331-7 in the stipulated 50 overs, and took control of the proceedings. South Africa began the chase well but two suicidal run-outs and some avoidable strokeplay changed the course of their innings.
Eventually, India won a match — dragged right till the end of the 50th over — by 26 runs. Dhoni hadn’t hinted much about the prospect of Rohit Sharma opening the innings with Dhawan. But on the morning of the match, when the two walked out, it didn’t come as a surprise to see the Mumbai batsman — who seems to have a very strong backing of his captain — open the batting. Dhawan’s form seemed to have rubbed off on Sharma and the duo brought the first 100 runs in just the 16th over, off 98 balls, to set the tone.
Early on in the innings, it was Sharma who first went after the bowlers. Dhawan joined the party midway through the partnership as the do put on 127 runs. The only chance Dhawan gave in his innings was a stumping opportunity messed up by South Africa’s captain and wicketkeeper AB de Villiers. The rest of his innings only varied between having to make a choice between a drive and a loft and a six or a four as he made light of a wayward South African attack.
The last 10 overs of India’s innings saw 82 runs scored for the loss of three wickets. That meant 149 runs coming between the 17th and the 40th over for the loss of just four wickets. It underlined Dhoni’s theory of taking a cautious approach and saving wickets for the end. That India were 213-2 at the end of 35 overs and SA 212-6 sums up the story. A great effort also came from allrounder Ravindra Jadeja who seems to be growing in confidence with each game regardless of the format.
It’s no surprise that Jadeja has been MS Dhoni’s go-to man of late. On Thursday, the 24-year-old’s 29-ball 47 cameo consisting seven fours and a six helped India surge from 260-5 in the 42 over to the eventual total. On the field too, he was electric, picking a wicket, taking a catch, and most importantly, effecting a thriller of a run-out – of Robin Peterson – to snatch back the initiative for India. India now head to London to play the West Indies.