After a year ridden with injuries, things are on the up for Shikhar Dhawan, who earned a recall to the India T20I and ODI sides, and celebrated it with a century in his first Ranji Trophy game for Delhi this season.
A thumb injury ruled him out of most of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019, even though he scored a century against Australia despite sustaining the problem. Since then, he has been laid low by a neck injury, a bruised eye, and stitches on the knee, and missed the series against West Indies earlier this month.
Dhawan has since taken the domestic route back to the Indian squad, playing his first first-class game in the last 15 months, and was at his best against Hyderabad. His side were reeling at 4/2 on a tricky pitch, but Dhawan revived the innings with a simple approach: playing "box cricket", which simply meant he would play deliveries close to his body, and refrain from driving.
The approach had the desired effect as he brought up his century shortly before tea, much to the delight of a loud crowd. "With experience, you get an idea what shots to play on which kind of track," Dhawan told ESPNCricinfo.
"I hardly played any drives against the fast bowlers. For long parts I played what we call box cricket: play at balls only close to the body. When I was a 20-year-old boy like the other Delhi youngsters, even I used to play the drive in these conditions."
At 34, Dhawan knows his time at the international level is limited, but the injuries haven't dampened his spirit. "I have never said it has been frustrating," the left-hand batsman told Cricbuzz. "Injuries are nature's gift. I just accept it. The start-stop thing doesn't affect me. I haven't forgotten how to bat. My class is permanent, and I will score runs. [The] good news is a new year is around the corner, and this is a fresh start for me."
Dhawan's injury gave an opening into the Indian white-ball side for KL Rahul, who has formed a solid partnership with Rohit Sharma at the top of the order. Dhawan isn't too fussed, though. He knows selection is a problem the management has to contend with, so long as he keeps his performances coming.
"I am happy that KL has done so well," Dhawan said. "He has grabbed the opportunity. So I am going to go and express myself. Selection is the team management's headache and let them deal with it."