There is a difference between an international player and a domestic one and that was very much evident in the way Delhi captain Shikhar Dhawan batted against the Hyderabad bowlers on the opening day of their Ranji Trophy game at the Arun Jaitley Stadium on Wednesday. No flashy drives and playing close to the body was the secret for another Dhawan special on his home ground as he ended the day unbeaten on 137 off 198 balls.
"Conditions were challenging as the ball was doing a bit in the morning," he said after the day's play. "The wicket is juicy as there was no sunshine to bake it. It's less now but nevertheless there is juice. Hopefully, when we get the new ball, we will be able to do the damage.
"I changed my game as when the left-arm spinner (Mehidy Hasan) was bowling, I was itching to hit him. But looking at the overall situation, I curbed my instincts as there wasn't much batting left. With experience, you get an idea of what shots to play on which kind of track. I didn't play too many balls away from my body, didn't play the drives.
"When I was (aged) 20-21, I would play those shots. But now with experience, I have a look at the track and know what kind of shots are required. My plan was not to play the drive. I played one and the edge flew to gully and was fortunately called no-ball. I was batting on 67. I tried to play box cricket, that is bat close to the pad. On these wickets, you tend to get good balls. It was more like England conditions. It's good as scoring runs in these conditions helps boost confidence," he explained.
Asked about the other batsmen who failed to get going, Dhawan said that the wicket was helping the bowlers. "They got good balls and strategy-wise they fiddled with deliveries outside the off-stump. Of course, the conditions were tough in the morning because seam and swing movement was more. But I will still credit all those who made those 25s (Kumwar Narain Bhiduri 22 n.o., Anuj Rawat 29, Nitish Rana 25) because those were significant contributions. 269 is a good a start," he said.
But Dhawan refused to get into rating the knock. "I am happy. The knock stays at Kotla (laughs). I am happy because I was timing the ball nicely when I was practising in Bengaluru. I always make sure that I do my process and then it was a challenging wicket so the satisfaction is all the more. To just bat through the day, it feels different. Hopefully, I will make more runs tomorrow," he smiled.
As an international player, you sometimes tend to carry the baggage of expectations when you represent your state, but not when you are a free soul like Gabbar.
"I had nothing on my mind. Jo cheez aani hai woh aa jati hain (What has to happen will happen). I am a very relaxed person and I don't make my mind heavy with extra thoughts. The way you guys think, I don't think like that," he laughed.
The 34-year-old said that he will be happy if the players benefit from picking his brains. "I try to mix and interact with them at their level. I share my experiences. I talk to the batting unit about what all can be done and Ishant Sharma similarly talks to the bowlers. The experience that we have gained in so many years, it's nice to give it back to the players. If guys benefit from it, it feels great. Now that we have come, the momentum that was needed, we got that," he said.
Dhawan feels that there are enough runs on the board and Delhi definitely hold the upper hand after the opening day's action.
"269 is a good score, 350 can happen but 300 is good score. Whatever we get is a good score as there was a time when it didn't seem like we can even score 200. On this wicket even 269 is a good score," he pointed out.
Dhawan has a suggestion for the youngsters -- he wants them to play more tournaments so as to gain further experience.
"In the last few matches, we dropped a lot of catches and batting unit was not sorted. Of course, I want to do well. We should go and play pre-season tournaments like Moin-ud-Dowla and KSCA. That process is needed for youngsters as they get more exposure and it helps," he said.