After that blitzkrieg in Mohali, Dhawan became an automatic choice for India in all three formats of the game. The problem with a section of the experts is that they thrive on being cynical. Rather than celebrating the moment, they allow apprehension to rule their judgment. When Dhawan scored that century against Australia, they talked about his backfoot game, or rather the lack of it, and had put a question mark over his ability to succeed in overseas conditions. The southpaw has answered them well.
This is a transitional phase in Indian cricket. Virender Sehwag is gone, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh have been shown the door. The selectors took a big call by picking such a young side for a tournament as important as Champions Trophy. Their faith in youth has been vindicated. The young India is making the fans forget about the old stalwarts. Dhawan is leading the charge.
Thirty years ago, an Indian opener had audaciously driven Andy Roberts through covers in a World Cup final. Kris Srikkanth was perhaps the first Indian opener who revelled in counter-attacking the opposition. Sehwag took that skill to a different level. And now we have another one from Delhi who follows on same line.
Dhawans biggest impact is that he has helped lift the gloom. India went to the Champions Trophy on the heels of the IPL spot-fixing and betting scandals. Cricket took a back seat. Crimes and punishments ruled the front pages as Indian cricket was hit by a severe credibility crisis.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was bombarded with questions related to his IPL franchise official and his alleged conflict of interest, rather than his teams chances in the Champions Trophy. He was rebuked for maintaining a stoic silence. Questions were raised about if India at all could focus properly. But a week into the tournament, cricket once again has come into prominence. India won their first two matches and have already qualified for the semi-finals. Dhawan set up the wins in both the matches.
A 94-ball 114 against South Africa was a fantastic effort. Against West Indies, he was a tad shaky to start with, got an early reprieve but made the opposition pay for the dropped catch. Like every left-hander, Dhawan also loves the off side. He doesnt have too many shots on the other side of the wicket. But he can make the bowlers bowl to his strength which is a special quality. Its early days. Hopefully Dhawan will not join the list of players who started with a bang but ended with a whimper.
Kapil Dev believes he is here to stay. Dhawans captain in Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kumar Sangakkara, too, has predicted a bright future for Indian crickets latest sensation. And it is expected that Dhawan will build on his start because he has done the hard yards.
Way back in 2004, in the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, Dhawan had amassed 505 runs with three centuries. He had to wait nine years to make his Test debut. In between, he scored 5,866 runs with 17 centuries in first-class cricket. That experience has helped him mature a great deal and now he is more than ready for the top level. But at 27, he doesnt have too much time on his side. Batsmen start to peak at this age and the next four years is usually considered to be the best phase of their careers. Dhawan has arrived late. So little wonder that he looks like a man in a hurry. And what a start he has made. He has given Indian cricket the impetus to roll over his illustrious predecessors.
By the time this column will see the light of day, it will be known if Dhawan has made history by scoring a hat-trick of ODI hundreds. But even if he gets a golden duck against Pakistan, nothing will change. His controlled swagger and the twirl of moustache have become new fashion statements in Indian cricket. And Dhawans bat has become a rapier, regularly ripping the opponents to shreds.