SK Elite: Shikhar Dhawan's splendid 190 at Galle
- Reliving the left-hander's series-definining 190 against Sri Lanka earlier this year.
Around July, Shikhar Dhawan had been out of favour in the Test side. Even after a virtuoso performance in the ICC Champions Trophy, he was initially not included in the touring party to Sri Lanka. However, an injury to Murali Vijay opened up a place for him in the team. The left-hander cashed in with one of the most scintillating centuries on the opening day of the series at Galle to firmly put India in control of the proceedings.
Now Galle is a venue where Sri Lanka have traditionally been very hard to beat. Hence Dhawan's innings, that broke the back of their attack on the first day, should be included among the greatest centuries scored in the country by a visiting batsman.
Dhawan was simply superb against the Sri Lankan spin attack, led by the excellent Rangana Herath and did not allow them to settle at any point. No one quite expected such an innings from a batsman who had just returned to the Test side but then against the man can often be quite unpredictable.
Taking the attack to the spinners
The best possible strategy against good spin bowling attacks is to go after them from the outset and spoil their rhythm, so that they can never quite get in the groove. It sounds simple enough but very few batsmen in the world have the wherewithal to go after world-class bowlers like Herath in their own den.
It requires a special innings from a special player to launch such an onslaught. That being said, the 1st-day pitch did not offer vicious turn but Dhawan decided to take on the spinners as soon as they came on to bowl. He used his feet magnificently to get to the pitch of the ball and repeatedly hit them for runs. On the other hand, unlike many other batsmen in the Indian side, he played the sweep extremely well to completely unsettle Herath and Dilruwan Perera.
To put it into perspective, Dhawan stepped out to the spinner on 28 occasions and played the sweep 12 times, to score to score a combined 64 runs. That sort of aggressive batting completely scrambled the line, length and rhythm of the bowlers.
The duo failed to make any impact and bowled 1 short of 50 overs combined without any success. Sri Lanka's main weapons in the series were annihilated by Dhawan's masterful batting on the very first day.
Dhawan scored 190 off 168 and recorded the second highest strike rate by any Indian batsman, who scored in excess of 150 in a Test match. He struck at 113.09, which is second only to Virender Sehwag's 115.35 recorded against Sri Lanka back in 2009. The match decisively tilted India's way as Sri Lanka wilted under the pressure.
Making it count
Many batsmen get good starts and then do not cash in. However, for Dhawan, who was making his way back into the Test side, it was important to make his start count. He had made 64 in the first session through aggressive batting but needed to drive the advantage home and make a substantial score.
Usually a 168 balls 190 raises visions of frenetic boundary hitting, but Dhawan's innings was much more than that and one important aspect of it was his ability to take singles or twos off good deliveries. He usually steered those deliveries either side of the cover fielders and ran hard. However, it was in the second session that he broke Sri Lanka.
However, his boundary hitting in the final session, in which he hit a staggering 126 runs was not about clearing the ground but controlled aggression and hard running that saw him take the Sri Lankan bowlers to cleaners. It was the 4th highest score made by a batsman in the 2nd session of a Test match in the history of the game.
The sweep and the cut were used to brutal effect and he hardly ever put a foot wrong in his execution. It was clinical stuff because Dhawan eschewed any shots that went up in the air and other than a few hooks, he played along the ground at all times. This is what makes the innings a particularly superb one.
Extra Cover: Under the Skanner - Shikhar Dhawan
He attacked the bowlers throughout but did not allow them many chances. That being said, when he finally did get dismissed it was a shot that was an attempted six. Although he missed out on a well deserved double hundred (or maybe more), he had put the game beyond Sri Lanka's grasp on the very first day.
Considering the fact that it was the same venue where India had lost back in 2015, the innings was a significant one. India went on to win the game by 304 runs and eventually cruised to a 3-0 series triumph. Dhawan was deservedly adjudged the man of the match for his masterful innings.Published 05 Dec 2017, 15:32 IST