Shikhar Dhawan's dream run at the international level continued as he scored his second consecutive ODI century, thus making it a hat-trick of hundreds for India following his smashing 187 on Test debut against Australia in March. On return to the ODI side for nearly two years, Dhawan scored a stroke-filled 114 against South Africa in Cardiff last Thursday and on Tuesday at The Oval he smashed an unbeaten 102 off 107 balls to guide India to an eight-wicket win over West Indies that took them into the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy.
The left-hander now averages a massive 201.50 across Tests and ODIs in 2013, with each of his three trips to the crease for India resulting in centuries. Those are staggering numbers and highlight the golden touch that Dhawan is in this season.
Dhawan, 27, burst into the limelight after that fantastic debut in Mohali where he smashed the Aussie bowlers for the fastest century on Test debut and the man with the twirling moustache and tattooed biceps has now stamped his authority in the 50-over format with two magnificent tons. His irresistible form has made heads turn and people take notice, but it has not been an easy ride to the top for Dhawan.
On his ODI debut against Australia in 2010, Dhawan was bowled off the second ball faced. He got more chances in the West Indies following India's 2011 World Cup triumph and started off well with a fifty but then fell cheaply in the next three innings and lost his place. With Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir struggling with form and Sachin Tendulkar retiring from ODIs, Dhawan was called up after his Test debut and a solid IPL 6 and has shown that there is life after the trio and that he is ready to take the responsibility.
While it would be too early to term Dhawan as replacement for Sehwag or Gambhir just yet, the left-hander looks capable of doing the job well in the near future.. He scores runs at a brisk pace, plays shots all around the ground and has the ability to negotiate the pace bowlers easily, something which India have been deprived of in the recent past. Perhaps most importantly, he plays the horizontal bat shots - the cut and pull very well, which augurs well for India with an eye on the 2015 World Cup in Australia.
For the last two years India have struggled as both Gambhir and Sehwag failed to provide a solid partnership in either Tests or ODIs, but now Dhawan has the ability to play in a courageous fashion as the duo used to play in their prime. And, in these three innings, he has given India rousing starts. At Mohali, he dominated an opening stand of 289 in 59.5 overs with Murali Vijay; in Cardiff he and Rohit Sharma put on 126; and at The Oval Dhawan and Rohit added 101. This is promising stuff.
Dhawan is still new on the international stage to be compared with the likes of Sehwag or Gambhir but he is technically sound and has a good temperament - the abilities required to succeed at the top level.
With back-to-back centuries in the Champions Trophy, Dhawan has clearly made a statement and sent the message loud that he is here to stay. The Delhi left-hander will be up against dangerous Pakistan attack next and will be hoping to help his team get one over their arch rivals as well.