"There's a certain role that we want Shikhar (Dhawan) to play in this team. Even by his own admission, he would've liked to score quicker today," Ricky Ponting said last year after Delhi made a less than impressive start in the game against Chennai. Dhawan's T20 batting has come under heavy scrutiny in the past because he more often than not sticks to an ODI template.
All that changed in the last two matches in the Indian T20 League as he made 101* (58) and 106* (61). More importantly, he has started off with a bang in the Powerplay overs.
Against Chennai, Dhawan was on 24 in 16 balls after the first six overs. Against Punjab, he made 35 in 20 balls and was on the charge from ball one.
The difference in Dhawan's attacking gameplay is evident in the last couple of seasons. His Powerplay strike-rate is a good indicator to understand how Dhawan starts off in an innings. Between 2008 and 2018, Dhawan scored at over a strike-rate of 130 in the Powerplay in only one year.
In 2019, he scored 338 of his runs in the Powerplay alone, striking at 143.8 while averaging a pretty good 48.3. In 2020, the strike-rate is still above 140 and the average has shot up to 60.
Dhawan's flair and intent at the crease have gone up immensely since Ponting's concern surrounding his scoring rate affecting the team's chances.
His runs-per-over has gone up from 7.43 before that game to 8.73 after it, and the remarkable intent he has shown at the beginning has helped Delhi take off in the middle overs even when Rishabh Pant has been unavailable.
The set template for openers this season, driven by the Orange Cap holder himself, is to bat deep into innings without taking undue risks early on. Shubman Gill, Devdutt Padikkal, David Warner, Jonny Bairstow, Faf du Plessis and of course KL Rahul have all been advocates of the same.
Delhi, though, have taken an alternative route. With Prithvi Shaw also going all guns blazing, they have chosen to put lesser value on their wicket but tried to score quicker, and it has worked out brilliantly for Dhawan at least.
He has only been dismissed thrice in the Powerplay this season and is right behind Rahul in the run-scorers chart with 465 runs at an average of 66.43 (compare it to 67.5 by Rahul) and a strike-rate of 149.03 (Rahul has 135.67), the second-best after Mayank Agarwal by an opener this year in the league.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter.com / Delhi