There were a lot of talks and debates on Virat Kohli's notion to play at No.4 in a bid to fit in Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul both in the batting lineup. Most veterans had even criticised the decision, while many felt India were reluctant to let go Dhawan from the ODI lineup. And less than 24 hours later, the self-proclaimed Gabbar of the Indian cricket team bounced back in style to score with a valiant 74 in the series opener against Australia at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
It was a sedate start on a live track that did have some in the offer for the bowlers as he managed only four runs in the first seven overs of the game. India had by then lost Rohit Sharma on 10 in the fifth over. Australia had managed to keep Dhawan quite throughout the first seven overs with deliveries pertaining to length and short balls from Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. And then the left-hander suffered two scares with threatening yorkers from Starc at the start of the eighth over before Dhawan woke up with two stunning boundaries against the left-arm pacer - one driven past the bowler and the other clipped off the pads past Marnus Labuschagne at square leg.
Dhawan smashed two more against Kane Richardson in the next over and then back-to-back against Cummins two overs later. The struggling Dhawan was far behind and the one at the crease showed more intent as he marched slowly towards his 28th ODI half-century in his 66th delivery.
Midway en route to his fifty, Australian skipper Aaron Finch introduced Ashton Agar as well given Dhawan averages only 23 against left-arm spinners while getting dismissed five times against the variety. But Dhawan was clever in his stance as swept one down behind the keeper in Agar's first over of the match. And then shimmied down the track to score the first six of the game against the spinner in his third over.
Dhawan was eventually dismissed after miscuing his flick shot against Cummins. But he sure did make a strong statement with his valiant 74. It was his second consecutive half-century in international cricket after his 52 in the third match against Sri Lanka in the T20I series earlier this month. And it was also his third fifty-plus score in five ODIs against Australia. He had scored a sensational 111 against Australia in World Cup 2019.
Rahul managed 47 in their partnership of 121 and was dismissed a few overs earlier.