“I use the law of attraction in life. I like to vibrate in high frequency, attract things in my life with affirmations about work. I have that self-belief too.”
Shikhar Dhawan, that cricketer with a twirled moustache, thigh slaps, flamboyant personality and robust cover drives, has been vibrating at a high frequency of late. The Punjab Kings (PBKS) opener is fourth in the list of highest scorers in the Indian Premier League this season (as of 17 May). His 402 runs from 12 matches coming at an average of over 40 is one of the reasons PBKS has a distant chance of qualifying for the play-offs.
The team’s currently seventh with 12 points, alongside one other team. But a loss on Monday to Delhi Capitals means it would take a miracle for the team to qualify for the play-offs. If they do get there, it would be on the back of Dhawan’s consistency in a team with an inconsistent batting line-up.
On 3 May, Dhawan anchored the team with an unbeaten 62 as PBKS overhauled the then leader Gujarat Titans’ rather low total of 143. He played at a steady strike rate, just under 117, considered unexciting by T20 standards, but effective in winning the match. It came a week after his highest score this IPL, an unbeaten 88 against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) during which he became only the second batsman in the IPL to go past 6,000 runs.
“It’s good to be second to go past 6,000,” says Dhawan over a Zoom call before PBKS' match against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). “My mindset is good so I have achieved it. You know how it is with destinations—it’s exciting till we reach it. My focus is about the journey, more about how I am refining myself as a cricketer and human.” These runs in IPL 2022 are an affirmation for him, and of the consistency with which he turns challenges into opportunities. “My numbers talk,” he says, grinning.
He does not see himself chasing Virat Kohli who, with 6,519 runs, is a little over 300 runs ahead. “That just creates unnecessary pressure,” Dhawan drawls. “It’s a race that never ends. If I get into that mind set, I will not be happy and it’s not good energy.”
Dressed in a blue T-shirt and printed shorts, he shuffles a pack of playing cards in his room as a member of the hotel staff putzes around in the background. Dhawan is self-assured, direct and does not speak with the benign correctness that most cricketers do. His almost monkish contentment comes from his faith, what he has imbibed through spirituality. He has “learnt the way to live life in a light manner. I enjoy the materialistic world, but that does not touch me in a way so as to disturb my peace. I like challenges, but putting everyone down on their knees is not fair. The choices you make is what makes champions.”
It’s been a long journey for the 36-year-old, who has played previously for the Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi franchises in the IPL. He went through his own fears of performing in the beginning, before faith and self-belief helped him take a leading role as a batsman. His confidence is palpable on the field, combined with an old-fashioned swagger, a disarming smile and an easy-going attitude. That attitude, though, is a façade that covers a strong desire to bat on, in the IPL and for the Indian team.
Since 2016, Dhawan has been among the top five scorers in every IPL (except 2018). He says that over the past few seasons, he has played more aggressively, and tried to take his strike rate (SR) to the range of 130-140. His strike rate since 2018 has been over 130, except for last year in Dubai where, he says, the batting conditions did not suit him. “I know that in this (PBKS) side I have a different role to play,” he says. “I can mould myself to any situation—for instance, my presence at the crease could be more important than the SR. I do that job on the day and in the moment—I may not do the same the whole season.I have the smartness and presence of mind to know when to do what.”
Dhawan’s consistency is not shared collectively by PBKS, whose six wins in 13 matches has pretty much knocked them out of the league. “We can’t leak more runs and have to maintain consistency as a batting unit,” the left-handed opener says. “We have to do that 5-10% more—whether with field placement or bowling yorkers quickly… If we do that, we can pull the (remaining) games our way.”
His goal is to stay fit and in a “good state of mind”and not have specific ambitions of scoring 400-500 runs in a season. He wants to play the 2023 ODI World Cup, maybe even this year’s T20 World Cup—though he has not been a regular part of the Indian T20 side for some time. “I am hopeful and positive that the way I am performing, there is a possibility for me to get into the side. I have been batting quite well for past few years—my ODI average (45.53) is good. With time, an individual has to change, adapt to new things. I am always looking for growth, analysing if I can get better. Consistency-wise, those numbers are showing, doing the talking actually.
“I went to play in South Africa (in January) after 5-6 months (of being out of the Indian team). After such a gap, the mahaul (environment) in the team changes. But I did well, showed my authority and dominated in a nice manner.” Dhawan was India’s highest scorer in the ODI series, with 169 runs in three matches.
Among the many dreams that came true for Dhawan was the one last year, when he captained the Indian team to a 2-1 ODI series win in Sri Lanka. “I enjoy mentoring young boys and passing on knowledge, whatever success mantra I have or has worked for me. I have good leadership qualities in me, I have played for enough time and can do too as a leader. If it (further leadership roles) comes,it’s good. If it doesn’t, that’s good too. I leave it to the universe.”
Arun Janardhan is a Mumbai-based journalist who covers sports, business and lifestyle.