Shikhar Dhawan: The man with a Melbourne connection and a beautiful Australian wife
A feature on Shikhar Dhawan's Australian connection.
If ever someone asks you to sketch a portrait of a man with a theatrical moustache, tattooed biceps and a chain around his neck, in all probability you may mistake that subject for a Bollywood honcho. But that is Shikhar Dhawan for you. The gutsy Indian opener, who has started off his World Cup campaign in remarkable fashion, has been garnering a lot of applause after his swashbuckling 137 against South Africa at the MCG on Sunday.
The Melbourne connection
As much as is known about his exploits on the cricket pitch, little is known about his off-field life. But his life outside the cricketing field is surprisingly intriguing. And the first to get surprised will be the Australians. The inhabitants of Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs have a good chance of spotting him shopping at Fountain Gate with his wife, as this 29-year-old Indian batsman owns a house in the city.
Before India's tour of England last year, Dhawan was practising rigorously in the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) nets facing throw-downs from Victorian coaches Greg Shipperd and Simon Helmot. He lives there when he’s not bound by cricketing commitments.
His other home is in Delhi, and he shuttles between Melbourne and Delhi given his professional assignments.
A house in Melbourne? Really? Yes, you would, of course, need two homes when your wife is an Australian, wouldn’t you?
Dhawan’s love life – the stuff of fairytales
Dhawan’s beautiful wife, Ayesha Mukherjee, is of British-Bengali origin and is based in Melbourne. What raises our eyebrows, though, is the largely unknown fact that she’s a trained kickboxer.
On a lighter note, how this happily-ever-after fairytale between the two started flourishing is a story that will provide a great deal of encouragement to the present Indian generation. Back in 2009, while Dhawan was just treading water in his cricketing career, he came across Ayesha on Harbhajan Singh’s Facebook friends’ list.
On an impulse, he sent her a friend request and they both seemed to hit it off instantly. Ayesha is 12 years older and a mother of two girls from her previous marriage. The most striking thing about the petite beauty though is that she's maintained herself so well that the age gap between the couple only rests on a piece of paper.
By late 2009 they were engaged, but Dhawan postponed the wedding by three years as he wanted to earn a respectable place in the Indian team before taking the plunge. They got married in 2012 and have a son, Zoravar.
The secret to his success?
After having been the leading run scorer in the 2004 U-19 World Cup, Dhawan had to wait up to half a decade, till 2010, for a national call-up. And he had to wait another three years (2013) before he could get a Test cap.
On 14 March, 2013, Dhawan received the Test cap from none other than Sachin Tendulkar, who said to him: "We have known you as a very gutsy player in domestic cricket, now we hope to see you as a gutsy player in international cricket, so show us some guts."
Dhawan sure lived up to his reputation in his very first Test as he scored the fastest Test century (85 balls) by any Indian on debut, against Australia. However, he has failed to continue in a similar vein after that brilliant debut. He has been inconsistent in both Test and ODI cricket; even during the recently concluded tour Down Under, he experienced a poor run. Questions over his place in the Indian World Cup squad also arose.
His critics, however, have been silenced, at least for now, by his back-to-back World Cup knocks.
Dhawan was once quoted attributing his success to his wife, saying, "I owe my maturity to Ayesha. She taught me that failures teach a person a lot more than success. It makes sense, considering I have learnt from mistakes. Success only goes to the head. It is true, the best way to improve a man is by giving him responsibility." Well, it can now be safely assumed that behind every successful man is a great woman.
Dhawan's rock star appearance matches his extroverted game, but he's said actually a rather quiet person. He enjoys the open spaces of Australian suburbia, a change from the crowded roads of Delhi or anywhere else in India, where he and other Indian cricketers are mobbed wherever they go. He also captained an Emerging Players Tour of Australia in 2011, which included Ajinkya Rahane and Varun Aaron.
While Dhawan would’ve been delighted that his 137 at the MCG on Sunday came in a winning cause, what would’ve been even more special is the fact that it came in front of a crowd and a city that he now considers very much his own.