March 16, 2013 and the Punjab Cricket Association stadium are two very special life events for Shikhar Dhawan. It was on this day that Dhawan became the new star of the Indian cricket team by blasting the fastest century on debut off just 85 balls in the third Test against Australia and he finished with 185 on that day. His clean-hitting, ability to pierce the gaps at regular intervals and dictate terms to the opposition bowlers heralded the arrival of a player who was ready to take the opposition on with swag and fervor. Out of his 187 runs, 144 were in boundaries. Prior to the Test, Dhawan had slogged in domestic cricket after a productive 2004 Under-19 World Cup which saw him emerge as one of the brightest players for India.
All the heartbreak, frustration that Dhawan endured prior to his debut in the Test all melted away. From that point on, he never turned back and he became a pivotal member of the Indian cricket team at the top, raising his game in major ICC tournaments. Just look at the ICC Champions Trophy, where he has been the leading run-getter in the 2013 and 2017 editions. Just ask South Africa, whom he has hit for a century in the 2013 Champions Trophy and 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup.
Six years later, same venue and same opponent. The situation confronting Dhawan was almost similar. Heading into the match at the PCA stadium, the left-hander had a pretty lean in limited-overs, managing scores of 28,13,6,29,30,5,14,0,21,1 in the ODIs and Twenty20 Internationals against New Zealand as well as in the first three ODIs in this series.
However, Dhawan put on a fabulous display of hitting and turned the clock back with a magnificent knock to blunt Australia and put India on top. The left-hander dictated the terms to the opposition by targeting Australia’s gun bowler in Pat Cummins, hammering him for four boundaries in two overs. Jhye Richardson and Jason Behrendorff also felt his wrath. What Australia saw in Mohali 2013 was dished out to them yet again in Mohali 2019. Dhawan found the gaps and he maintained a scoring rate of over 100 for most of his innings.
When Dhawan reached his century by paddle sweeping Adam Zampa, the celebration was not typical Dhawan. It was measured and was a sense of relief, underlining that he had felt the pressure and this knock came at the right time considering that not many matches remain for the World Cup.
After he went past his century, Dhawan turned up a gear. He made Behrendorff lose his line and length and he also danced down the track to Cummins. When he dealt with the spinners, he used his feet brilliantly. The inside-out six off Glenn Maxwell over wide long-off showed that Dhawan was in the zone. Records tumbled in his wake. Dhawan became the newest member to score over 10,000 runs in List A cricket and he surpassed his highest individual score, going past 137 which he made against South Africa in the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup in Melbourne.
Dhawan attempted one shot too many as he fell to Cummins for 143. However, the knock turned the clock back to 2013 when Dhawan tore the Australian bowling to shreds. The knock in Mohali was the rebirth of Dhawan, calmer and even more dangerous.