Mohali: Shikhar Dhawan returns to Mohali, the scene of his memorable Test debut in 2013. Replacing state mate Virender Sehwag, Dhawan had announced his arrival with the fastest century on Test debut, blazing his way to 187. The southpaw seemed free-flowing, relying on instincts to make merry in the middle.
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Shikar Dhawan blasts away to an unbeaten 71 on Day One of the Wellington Test against New Zealand on February 14, 2014. Pic/Getty Images
A year before that, Dhawan had met Badri Narayan, a USA-based sports psychologist, at the same venue to discuss mental conditioning training. After an assessment, a plan was charted out to help Dhawan take his game to the next level.
Badri mainly works with tennis players on the ATP circuit, but has been with Dhawan since 2012. They have continued to work through thick and thin. Ahead of the 2015 World Cup, Dhawan went through a rough patch in Australia, but bounced back by starring in the big event with 412 runs in eight matches. To make that recovery, he went back to the drawing board.
"The key mainly in Shikhar’s case was to make sure that he stays poised and reflects a positive stance. We also worked on his calm demeanour. We also got him not to identify too much with the game. Instead, it was to create a sense of detachment from the game — creating a spectator perspective of himself," says Badri.
To ensure that Dhawan walks out sans cobwebs in his mind, Badri has created exercises to help the batsman relax. Badri explains, "We do a lot of work on breathing and mindfulness. We have also worked on body awareness exercises. For cricket, we use the tai chi model to get the timing right.
Also, we have a technique for the soft-gazing of the eyes — so that when he (Dhawan) sees the ball, it is out of curiosity and not nervousness. We also employ neo-linguistic programming, specifically to ensure that he is hitting the gaps."
When Dhawan smashed a World Cup century against SA at Melbourne, the arms went aloft in trademark style. You could sense that he soaked in the atmosphere and enjoyed every minute of it.
"It was more about him enjoying and being in the present more. That was the biggest difference from the Test series. "He was starting to give his full attention to every delivery without being tight about it. Especially in the World Cup, you could see the difference from the way he played in the Test series in Australia," Badri points out.
Ready for big Tests
Although Dhawan hasn’t had the best time in one-day cricket off late, he’d be up for the South African challenge in the Test series. After all, the template of recovery was laid before him leading into the World Cup.
Badri remarks, "It is a lot of invisible and mental work that Shikhar has done. Now, I am not worried about him when there are dips in form or highs because he is very level-headed." The Dhawan-Badri combo continues its relentless pursuit in a process-driven approach. "It is only a matter of time before he hits it big as he feels at ease mentally and is raring to go," Badri concludes.
Matches - 15
Runs - 1,158
Highest - 187
Average - 44.53
Strike Rate - 64.22
Hundreds - 4
Fifties - 2