Going into the series against Australia, the form of their openers was one of India`s major problems. Gautam Gambhir had been dropped and it was only a matter of time before Virender Sehwag was axed as well. In a scenario like this the selectors must have had no clue that the two new players they would subsequently chose as openers for the series against the Aussies would prove worth their weight in gold, especially given the fact that Murali Vijay was inexperienced and Shikhar Dhawan was yet to make his Test debut.
While Sehwag continued to struggle, Murali Vijay justified the faith put in him by Sandeep Patil and company by slamming a century in the Hyderabad Test. He, along with Cheteshwar Pujara, added 370 runs for the second wicket, while Australia managed to muster just 368 in both their innings. It was a classy knock from Murali Vijay and the selectors thought it was the right time to drop Sehwag and give Shikhar Dhawan a try.
While we were all aware of his ability, no one had expected Dhawan to come up with such a stellar performance this early in his career. Dhawan had failed on his international debut against the Aussies in 2010 when he was dismissed for a second ball duck.
He showed no signs of any nerve when he hit his first boundary - an elegant cover drive. And as the innings progressed, his emphatic innings pummelled the Aussies into submission, as he made his way into record books with the fastest ever ton on debut.
It was sensible of Mu
rali Vijay to let his partner dominate the proceedings. While the Australian pacers initially bowled too full, Dhawan even dispatched the best of the deliveries to the fence.
While it would be foolish to compare Dhawan with Virender Sehwag just yet, the left-hander has already announced his arrival on the big stage. He scored runs at a brisk pace, something which India have been deprived of in the recent past. While he looked in a hurry to complete his century, his maturity in the latter half of the day only brought more praises for him. He charged down the wicket against both Doherty and Lyon, but ensured that the ball was kept well along the ground. His inning was special, and there is no doubt that Virender Sehwag will have to do something incredible to make a comeback.
The competition has been taken to the next level. For the last two years the Indian team struggled as both Gambhir and Sehwag failed to provide a solid partnership. The new openers have shown they have it in them to perform at the biggest stage, even though they still have to be tested against a better bowling attack and in overseas conditions. While Gambhir will inevitably find himself among the three openers in the squad, Dhawan can bask in the glory of his spectacular knock and twirl his moustache.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)