India vs Australia: Shikhar Dhawan peaks on debut

India vs Australia: Shikhar Dhawan peaks on debut

85-ball hundred fastest ever by a Test debutant; 185 n.o. highest Test debut score by an Indian.

Shikhar Dhawan raised his bat,threw his head back and laughed hysterically at the skies. In the stands,in a tune usually saved for the greats,the sparse but vociferous crowd chanted his name in loop.

Below them,Harbhajan Singh burst out of the dressing room and stood beside Virat Kohli. As everyone in the throng applauded,Bhajji and Virat paid their personal tributes to the man of the moment. The offspinner twirled the edges of his moustache; the batsman pointed to his tattoos. India’s newest Test hero was being welcomed to the big league in a style favoured by brash young India.

Indeed,Dhawan himself did not dial that intense batsman-to-almighty hotline like most others do at such moments in international cricket. His was more the ‘I-own-the-world’ celebration seen at a gulli game.

In fact,for the entirety of his enthralling innings,Dhawan treated the Australian bowling rather like he would street cricketers in his backyard. Today,Mohali was his Paschim Vihar.


In his first innings in Test cricket,Dhawan did not just score a century,he produced India’s best on debut,a 168-ball 185,and unbeaten still. He broke the record for the fastest hundred for a debutant — reached with a dive to complete a single on the 85th ball he faced — and bested the highest score by an Indian first-timer so far,the great Gundappa Viswanath’s 137 in 1969,by some distance.

In the two hours from lunch to tea,the left-handed Dhawan went from 0 to 106. Having waited long for his place in the Test side,he appeared to be in a tearing hurry to show what the game’s grandest stage had been missing. “It just looked that way because all my shots ran away to the boundary so fast,” he laughed at the end of play.

Out in the middle,the Delhi batsman seemed to be paying a few cricketing tributes of his own.

He drove through the covers as well as Sourav Ganguly ever did,and paced his innings much like the man he replaced in the side,Virender Sehwag. Incidentally,both Sehwag and Ganguly scored centuries on debut. But in terms of the match,neither had had the impact that Dhawan did on Saturday.

In a Test that lost its entire first day to rain and seemed headed for a draw after Australia reached 408 in the first innings — their highest on this tour — Dhawan has shone the light of a possible Indian victory yet.

With 33 fours,two sixes and a strike rate of 110.1,he has taken India to 283/0 with two full days still to go,putting the controls of this Test right back in M S Dhoni’s hands. India will be looking for a big enough lead to ensure they do not have to bat again,and make it 3-0 here in Mohali,winning back the Border-Gavaskar Trophy for the first time since 2010.

The 27-year-old who watched several age-group mates like Suresh Raina and Robin Uthappa enter the national side ahead of him,found inconsistency and a lack of mental strength in his way during the five ODIs he played in 2010 and 2011. So he went back to the domestic fold and found three things that he had been missing: runs,with 833 this season; stability,with his marriage; and finally,himself.

On Saturday,he put all three on display.

He said: “I guess this is like me saying,‘Main hoon na!’”