Mercurial batsman Shikhar Dhawan first came into prominence in the 2004 Under-19 World Cup, where he became the leading scorer by amassing 505 runs in just 7 matches. Considered to be a Team India material from the very beginning, the 24-year-old Delhi opener never seemed to fulfill his enormous promise.
He had his share of ups and downs in the past. But thankfully for the last couple of seasons, Dhawan again came into international prominence with some consistent performances in first-class cricket and in the first edition of Indian Premier League (IPL). Immediately after the IPL, he got his place back in India-A team that toured Australia and became the highest run-getter there. In an exclusive interview with Zeecric.com’s Biswajit Jha, Shikhar talks about his Under-19 days, his chance of playing for the country and his success in last year’s IPL.
Excerpts from the interview:
Are you happy with your present form?
I won’t say that I am happy but I scored around 450 runs in the last Ranji Trophy season which was satisfying. Since our team failed to qualify for the knock-out stages, I did not get enough opportunity to sharpen my skills this season.
How are you preparing yourself for the coming IPL?
Since T20 and one-day cricket are completely different ball games, I am practicing some unorthodox shots like, say, playing over the cover or over the mid-wicket. You have to employ this kind of strategy if you want to succeed in the shorter format of the game.
What went wrong that you suddenly got lost in transition after your success at Under-19 World Cup?
Actually, there was a lot of expectation after my success at the Under-19 World Cup. People were expecting me to make it to the national team immediately. To be honest, even I was expecting such things…I was on a high and scored runs in the first year of domestic cricket I played for Delhi. And, you know, it’s easier to score in the first year as the opposition does not know your weaknesses. But I faced real challenge when I played in the second season.
Do you think that a player should play for a couple of years of domestic cricket before playing for the country?
Actually, it depends. For some talented players it does not matter whether they play domestic cricket or not. But for most of the players, it is important to play a couple of years in the domestic circuit to know the reality. One has to see the hard days in life. It makes you mature as a cricketer.
Was your performance affected by the hype that surrounded your success at the Under-19 World Cup?
As I told you, it’s really difficult to maintain your cool after your phenomenal success and that too at a tender age.
When are you hoping to play for India?
I don’t know… (sighs). If I perform consistently, I am hopeful that I will get the national call in the near future.
Is IPL a good platform for the fringe players to show their talents?
It’s really a big platform where top cricketing stars of the world play together. Last year, after my IPL success, I was selected for India-A’s tour to Australia and I was the highest scorer there.
Some say that T20 is affecting batsmen’s technique. What’s your take on that?
I don’t think so. At the end of the day you are playing the same game, that of cricket. The only difference is that in T20s we have to start throwing the bat at the ball from the beginning whereas in the longer version, you can take your time.
Which form of cricket excites you more?
I like to play cricket. The form does not matter to me. I am a natural stroke-maker who plays his game accordingly, irrespective of the format of the game.
Tell us something about your IPL experience of last year….
It was really a great experience. The best part was that I got the opportunity to interact with some of the greatest players of the game like (Glen) McGrath and (Daniel) Vettori.