That Dhawan is a dominant player in the ICC 50-over events is no secret. He has played 10 matches in the ODI World Cups so far (in the 2015 and 2019 editions) and has 537 runs under his belt, averaging 53.70.
He also played a stellar role in India’s 2013 ICC Champions Trophy triumph, where he was adjudged the Man of the Series for scoring 363 runs in 5 matches at an average of 90.75, including two centuries and one half-century.
The 36-year-old left-hander was given the captaincy baton for the ODI series against West Indies in West Indies. He guided the team to a 3-0 series win and also scored 168 runs to finish as the second-highest run getter in the series after Shubman Gill, at an average of 56 with two fifties.
Shikhar will be seen in action next on the ODI tour of Zimbabwe, ahead of which he spoke to TimesofIndia.com.
Dhawan is ready for his next assignment where he will be the India vice-captain. He was initially named the captain, but once KL Rahul cleared his fitness tests, Dhawan was made Rahul’s deputy. The KL Rahul-led Team India are scheduled to play 3 ODIs in Zimbabwe – on August 18, 20, and 22. This will be the first time India will tour Zimbabwe in six years. The last time India toured Zimbabwe was way back in June-July in 2016, under the leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
TimesofIndia.com caught up with Shikhar Dhawan for an exclusive interview earlier this month, before the change in captaincy for the Zimbabwe tour was announced, to talk about the West Indies series, next year’s ODI World Cup, his domination in ICC events, Rohit Sharma as an opening partner, the experience of working alongside coach Rahul Dravid and much more…
You led the team in the ODI series on the recent tour of the Caribbean. You have captained India before as well. What’s your captaincy mantra?
Captaining India is always an honour. My approach to captaincy is to be cool and aggressive – aggressive from the inside, and cool on the outside. I want my team to enjoy themselves on the field, but maintain the intensity during the game and to enjoy playing for Team India. I enjoy mentoring the young boys and passing on knowledge and that continues to bring out the leadership qualities in me.
Was time away from the game helpful in order to maybe gather your thoughts and work better towards a comeback in India colours?
My basics have always been strong since the beginning, I keep working on my technique and keep a calm mind, and I am always hopeful and positive that the way I am performing, there is always a possibility for me (to be) in the India team. I am always looking for growth and always analysing if I can get better.
What is the big focus for you going forward?
My focus is definitely on next year’s 50-overs World Cup and for that, I want to play as many matches as possible for India and do well in them. In between, there is the IPL as well, so I will try to continue to perform there and look to play the domestic one-day and T20 matches and keep myself match-fit and ready.
You have been dominant in ICC 50-over events over the years. How do you handle that pressure and buzz?
I love playing in ICC tournaments. There is always a different feeling and satisfaction and I’ve had some very good tournaments in the past. I prepare and approach every tournament exactly the same way. Every time I wear the Indian jersey, pressure is always there and the thing is, as an experienced player, I know how to handle pressure. The buzz definitely helps, because it adds motivation to my game. I don’t get over-awed by the moment, because my focus, process, and preparation is the same for any tournament I am playing in.
The way you and Rohit batted in the first ODI vs England recently was another reminder of how well the two of you gel as openers. You also completed 5000 runs as an opening pair in ODIs. Would you say Rohit is the best opening partner you’ve ever had or would you give that tag to someone else ?
It is a big milestone in both our careers and 9 years on, we have a very strong bond and friendship. We have played together for so many years that we have come to understand each other’s game and we are always looking to support each other in the nets or on the pitch. Rohit has been a fantastic opening partner and to have a milestone that I share with Rohit is a happy feeling.
Would you say that the competition for various slots and roles in the Indian team is the highest right now – more than it’s ever been before?
It’s always good for Indian cricket when you have multiple players jostling for slots. It also keeps you on your toes to keep evolving and sticking to the process that has brought success. It also offers tremendous motivation to me to do well and contribute consistently to the team’s success. We have a very strong bench strength. The fact that we are able to have different teams tour at the same time offers the captain, coach, and the selectors so many options to choose from and to plan for the future.
How has Shikhar Dhawan the batter and overall cricketer evolved over the last 5 years or so? Have you also made any changes to your technique of late?
I don’t put unnecessary pressure on myself. If I get into that mindset, I will not be happy and it’s not good energy. I have a process that I follow to refine myself as a cricketer and to evaluate how consistently I am performing and growing as a captain. With my level of experience of having played at the highest level, and having captained teams, I have a very strong presence of mind and I have the ability to adapt to any situation, and the approach keeps changing and evolving depending on the situation.
Your take on Rahul Dravid the coach and what has your experience of working with him been like?
I have a very good relationship with Rahul Dravid. I’ve had the opportunity to play against him (and also interacted with him) during India ‘A’ games when he was the coach, we had a lot of interaction and we have been in sync since then. That has been carried forward through the years. Even at the NCA, when he was the director, there were a lot of conversations (that we had) and we have a good understanding of each other and that helped with improving my game and contributing to the plans that Rahul has set out for the team, whether I am the captain or a part of the squad.
(Photo credit: SLC Twitter)
We (Rahul Dravid & Shikhar) had a set plan prior to the series and we were very happy that we were able to execute it to perfection. Post the game in the dressing room also, we all came together and celebrated the collective success of the team.
What’s your take on IPL being one of the main reasons behind India’s solid bench strength that the world envies today?
The IPL has become a platform and funnel of talent for Indian cricket and it’s great to see so many youngsters perform in the IPL, which (in turn) earns them national team call-ups. The bench strength allows India to be strong in all formats and have a bigger pool to choose from and that bodes well for Indian cricket in the future. There are so many players waiting to step up and that will motivate everyone to do well and give their best.
Your ‘thigh-five’ celebration on the field is a fan favourite – Are you a kabaddi fan or did you get that idea from somewhere else?
I love watching Kabaddi and my celebration has been inspired by how the players celebrate and it’s given me a unique way to celebrate on the field.
(Photo credit: Twitter)
What does Shikhar love to do when he is not playing cricket?
I lead an active life even during the breaks, I play table tennis, squash, and football and I love to go horse-riding. I also love playing the flute that I have been taking lessons in. It’s very calming and soothing. I also love traveling, reading, listening to, and telling ‘shers’ to my friends.