He is back home and India opener Shikhar Dhawan is looking to make it a season worth remembering for the Delhi Capitals in the Indian Premier League (IPL). While the team has failed to rise to the challenge in the last couple of seasons, finishing at the bottom of the table, they have rejigged the squad and brought in a good mix of youth and experience.
While Dhawan was brought in to cement the batting at the top, before the auction, the likes of Ishant Sharma was brought in the auction to add to the experience in the bowling unit. And Dhawan believes that this team can go the full distance and win the trophy.
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Speaking to IANS, Gabbar (as he is fondly known) said that a mix of hard and smart work has ensured that the Delhi Capitals are in the right frame of mind going into the 12th edition of the cash-rich league.
"I am looking forward to starting the season with a bang. Feels good to be back home after a long time and when it comes to cricket, we have a very good bunch of boys, a balanced side. Things have changed and I feel that change is good. We have a great support staff and I think we are in the right mindset which is very important.
"The way we are preparing, we are doing a lot of hardwork as well as smart work and I believe we are going to do well this season," he smiled.
Personally, Dhawan had come into the ODI series against Australia with pundits questioning his form as he had managed to score just two fifties in 14 innings since his innings of 114 against Pakistan in the Asia Cup in September 2018. But Dhawan silenced all with a swashbuckling 143 against the Aussies in the fourth ODI of the 5-match series in Mohali.
Asked if he was under any pressure or if he was getting conscious considering that the World Cup is round the corner, Dhawan was at his wittiest best.
"Conscious about what? This is my daily job. I make sure my basics are taken care of and I have a clear mind. Sometimes you make runs, sometimes you don't. But I always keep calm and look at the areas where I need to work on and then I go and give it my best shot. I don't believe in worrying too much," he explained.
While one would have expected him to take on the captain's role, Dhawan says he is happy to share his experience with skipper Shreyas Iyer and will be looking forward to mentoring the young players in the team.
"I feel very good and light. Shreyas captained the side last year and his bonding with Ricky Ponting (head coach) is great and it will only grow. As a senior player, I will share all my experience and whatever information I can provide to the team. I can always help my captain and give my inputs. It is on the skipper to decide how much he wants to use it.
"Off the field also, we will look at the opposition and their videos and get the details. On the field when I am batting with my partners, I will make sure the communication level is high and be aware of what the situation demands," he said.
Even as many players have spoken about workload management and the need to be smart to ensure that the body isn't overworked, Dhawan is looking at the IPL as an opportunity to walk into the World Cup in top form.
"I guess everyone has been given breaks in rotation by the board, even I was given 5 weeks of rest by the selectors after a long time. It is a good thing because while you relax, you also focus on keeping the training regime going (we are given a chart on what all needs to be done). I feel the bowlers are quite fresh. Also, even Virat was recently given rest in New Zealand. We have balanced it quite well I feel.
"The IPL is our home tournament, so we must play and enjoy ourselves. I am sure those who do well in the IPL will take that form forward into the World Cup. Rhythm always helps a cricketer," he said.
Asked if he planned any differently for the IPL, Dhawan said that he always looks to keep things simple. "I take every match the same way. I ensure that I look at what a certain format demands and I put an effort to work on those areas during practice. I am looking forward to performing well this season and be an asset to my team. I always look to give it my best.
"I want Delhi to do really well this season and win the trophy. It is possible as we have a great side which is really well balanced with some quality Indian players and some good bowlers," the 33-year-old said.
Dhawan has over the years formed a dangerous partnership with India teammate Rohit Sharma at the top of the order. But with IPL comes new partners as Rohit joins Mumbai Indians and Dhawan is plying his trade for DC this season. While one would think that adjusting to new partners can be an issue, Dhawan begs to differ.
"See, obviously when you play with someone for a long time, you do know that person well. But at the end of the day, it is all about the mindset. If I am batting with Prithvi (Shaw), the game will remain the same. If one batsman is scoring from one end, the other will play accordingly. The basic stays the same and creating the rhythm isn't that big a deal. I played with him in the practice games and it has been good," he said.