2019 has been a painful year for Shikhar Dhawan who has battled various injuries including fractured finger, bruised eye, swollen neck and the latest gashed knee. His international stints during the year have been cut short midway with the ICC Cricket World Cup being the biggest event he had to miss owing to a finger injury.
While he has time and again successfully bounced back, the latest injury setback could be a bigger one as his place in the playing XI could be under threat. His replacement, KL Rahul, for the West Indies series, has been in imperious form and has made a solid claim to open the innings alongside vice-captain Rohit Sharma in limited-overs cricket.
But Dhawan is unperturbed, saying he hasn’t forgotten how to bat. “This is a fresh start for me,” Dhawan told reports on Tuesday. “I was hit on the finger, then on the neck, bruised eye and then stitches on the knee. Good news is New Year is coming. I am happy that KL has done so well. He has grabbed the opportunity. So I am going to go and express myself.”
He added, “Injuries are natural. You’ve got to accept that. It’s fine and I don’t create a big fuss about it. The start-stop thing doesn’t affect me as I haven’t forgotten how to bat. My class is permanent and I will score runs.”
Dhawan was named in India’s limited-overs squads for the Sri Lanka T20Is and Australia ODIs on Monday. It will be another chance for him to reclaim the spot/ “This is an important season. I would like to perform well in the T20s against Sri Lanka but the selection is support staff’s (team management) headache. They will do their job and I will do mine. Looking forward to scoring big runs,” he said.
It’s been over a year (September 2018) since Dhawan last played a Test. With Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal putting up excellent show while opening the innings and Prithvi Shaw waiting, his return to Test arena looks quite difficult.
The 34-year-old says it’s a challenge and he has never shied away from one. “Whether I am in Test team or not is immaterial. I know what game I have. I have scored runs in international cricket as well. I am happy to come back and play Ranji. I have grown from the Ranji level and can’t be better that I am back here and also imparting knowledge to other kids.”
“My goal remains to play all three formats. I am working on that and even now when I passed the fitness test, the first 20 days I couldn’t walk. Then I worked on my fitness. It was a deep cut. So, I always enjoy challenges as I never shy away from them. I never shy away from my failures as well. It’s always a learning experience. And as they say, ‘A learning man is always an earning man’,” Dhawan said.
He will be turning out for Delhi in their Ranji Trophy fixture against Hyderabad from Wednesday.
Defending the practice of India internationals skipping Ranji matches, Dhawan said it’s got to do with managing workload and playing for the country should always be the priority. “There is a general feeling that India players don’t turn up enough in Ranji Trophy but Dhawan feels that it also depends on the workload. If you have played an international series, then you need to give him (a player) rest so that he remains fresh. When you play for India, that’s the priority. We are humans and not machines, so mentally and physically you need to be fresh. An international player knows how much he can stretch his body. There are times you get emotional and may be play for Delhi (or state team) and in turn get injured and India assignment gets hampered,” he observed.
Dhawan said he’s open to handing down tips to anyone who approaches him and that he never thinks of himself as an international star. “I don’t think like an international star. I am very comfortable over here (Delhi) and I will make sure that we work as a team and I share my expertise and knowledge with them so that they are further groomed. If it benefits a youngster, then why not,” he said.
Talking about his critics, he said, “Critics do their own job and I don’t ever get frustrated by that. If they feel that way, that’s their opinion what can I do. In my heart I know that I have given my best. But if my best wasn’t good enough for it, it’s fine, I accept it.”