There was every possibility that Shikhar Dhawan’s Test debut would have ended in tears, run out without facing a ball. Mitchell Starc pulled off halfway through his load-up and release, and the ball accidentally slipped off his palms and trickled onto the stumps. Dhawan, backing up too far, was short of the crease, and had Australians appealed the umpire would have had no reason but to approve. But the Australians didn’t appeal. But the Australians didn’t appeal — whether it was sportsmanship or they didn’t observe this is hard to fathom. “The ball just slipped and we didn’t even think of an appeal at any point,” clarified Mitchell Starc. But if only they knew the mustachioed debutant will hurt them with an unbeaten 185.
Dhawan, though, can afford to see the lighter side of it. “Even in that case, I would have made history. I would have become the first debutant to be dismissed without facing a ball,” he chuckled, thunderous enough to shake the entire conference room. Dhawan was still living and reliving in the moment of his glorious brush with history.
It took only 168 balls for a greenhorn’s naivety to be replaced by a veteran’s assurance. Those 168 deliveries could be the sweetest he could have faced in his career, each stroke would have reverberated in his mind a sonorous strain of joy. “Since I was axed from the team (ODI), I really worked on a lot of things, waiting for one opportunity. I knew it would come and had to seize that. It has been a dream come true, maybe better than a dream. To get the Test cap from Sachin paaji, to score a hundred, I can’t believe it,” said Dhawan.
Getting off the mark itself would have been relieving; scoring a hundred would be reassuring. “I wanted to get off the mark as early as possible because I had scored a duck in my ODI debut, against Oz. But I remember (MS) Dhoni telling me that players who have got out for duck in their first innings have made it big,” he said.
Soon after he achieved his first target, to register his first Test run, batting partner Murali Vijay came up and patted on his shoulders. “It feels happy when your partner comes up and congratulates your first run in Tests. It makes you believe that your partner wants to see you score runs. It eased my nerves,” he said.
Thereafter, he put his senior partner, into shade. “There wasn’t any particular strategy. I just wanted to capitalise on the loose balls and I was in good flow and middling nearly every ball,” he said.
Maybe Dhawan himself wouldn’t be able to narrate the stirring tale of his debut, for he still seems to be in a trance. Among a heap of records he set, he would be particularly delighted in surpassing the highest score by an Indian debutant, a 44-year-old record of Gundappa Vishwanath (137 vs Australia in Kanpur). He joins a list of 12 other Indians, a club that would at once remind him of the transience of human glory, unless he performs consistently.
He has the humbling lessons of Suresh Raina and Surinder Amarnath, and the glowing templates of Vishwanath, Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag. If he emulates the latter league, Indian cricket will be well served.