New Delhi [India], December 5 (ANI): In its 90-year history in international cricket, Team India went from being the ultimate underdogs to producing some of the best cricketers in the world, blessed with sheer elegance with the willow or bamboozling with the bowl.
India never had a dearth of cricketing talent and star power. Be it CK Nayadu, Vinoo Mankad, Vijay Hazare, MAK Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli etc, every decade produced numerous stars.
Such were the talents, abilities and performances of the cricket stars in each decade that one star was bound to slip into the shade as others shone brighter. One such star, Shikhar Dhawan, turned 37 on Monday.
Dhawan, who jostled with the likes of his Delhi mates Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and the legendary Sachin Tendulkar for the opening slot, got the opportunity of a lifetime when he was paired with Rohit Sharma at the top of the order for ICC Champions Trophy 2013. The pairing changed the careers of both batters, as they emerged as two of the deadliest willow-wielders in world cricket.
While Rohit 'Hitman' Sharma accumulated record-breaking double tons, mesmerised crowds with his sixes and competed with Virat Kohli in terms of statistics and shotmaking, Shikhar still ruled the opening slot and was a darling of the fans for his batting exploits and the trademark twirl of his moustache, earning him the nickname 'Gabbar'.
However, he was slowly reduced to number 3 in the pecking order, as the popularity of Rohit and Kohli soared.
After featuring in his last Test in 2018, Dhawan became exclusively a white-ball cricketer. Competition from KL Rahul and his age made things tougher for him to hold on to his place in white-ball cricket. Though he still plays white-ball cricket, he is not the first choice every time, often stepping in due to the absence of KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma.
He is mostly assigned to lead the next generation of Indian cricketers and share with them the experience he has attained in his 12-year career.
Dhawan played a vital role in India's 2013 Champions Trophy triumph. He he topped the batting charts in the showpiece event, winning the 'Man of the Tournament' award. In five matches, he scored 363 runs at an average of 90.75, with two centuries and one fifty. His best score was 114.
Though India's 50-over World Cup title defence stopped at the semifinal in 2015, 'Gabbar' still won many hearts with his batting performances, massively outdoing both Rohit and Virat. In eight matches, he aggregated 412 runs at an average of 51.50, with two centuries and one fifty. He finished the event as India's top-scorer and overall, the fifth-highest scorer in the tournament.
It was 2017 ICC Champions Trophy which saw Dhawan return to prime form. In India's runner-up finish, it was Dhawan who topped the tournament's batting charts in yet another ICC tournament. He scored 338 runs in five matches at an average of 67.60, with one century and two fifties, with a best score of 125.
In India's 2018 Asia Cup win, Shikhar impressed once again, helping India clinch their seventh title. In five matches, he scored 342 runs at an average of 68.40, with two centuries.
An injury stopped the southpaw's consistent run in ICC tournaments during the 2019 50-over World Cup. He was ruled out of the tournament just after scoring a ton against Australia. India's campaign could well have been different had he not been ruled out.
Men in Blue exited the event after suffering a heartbreaking loss to New Zealand in the semifinal.
Though his ICC T20 World Cup numbers are not remarkable, only 31 runs in 3 matches in 2014 T20 WC and 43 runs in four innings in the 2016 edition of the tournament, these two tournaments do very little to dent his credentials as a modern-day white-ball cricket legend, who almost always delivers when needed the most.
If India is to lift their third ICC 50-over World Cup at their home in 2023 after 12 years, they will no doubt need Shikhar to go out all guns blazing through the tournament and pick up from where he left in 2019. (ANI)