posted on 2019-06-10 09:52:17
posted by Sarah Waris
Within a distance of 470 kilometres, two sportsmen were defining and redefining consistency in their respective fields. As Rafael Nadal clinched his 12th Roland Garros title, ‘biting’ into the silverware, he was exhibiting strong lessons on how to own tournaments. The Clay King, who faced breathing problems after two tiring and drawn out sets raised his game thereafter to win the next two with a scoreline of 6-1 and eventually ended with raised arms and wide grins.
On the other side of the English Channel in the capital city of London, Shikhar Dhawan was stamping his authority in multi-national events yet again. His third hundred in a World Cup game, and his sixth overall in ICC events, stood out for the panache with which it was composed and the manner in which the batter upped his game every instance an Aussie tried something new.
Both Nadal and Dhawan are constantly under the shadows of two greater sportsmen - one is a beautiful freak who fails to age while the other is slowly but surely stamping his name as one of the greatest in the world. But by trying game in and game out to match up to the insane standards of Roger Federer and Virat Kohli both players have managed to leave their indomitable mark. Nadal as a brute. Dhawan, a delight.
And there was plenty of joy on offer at London on Sunday. Amid a sea - or maybe an ocean - of blue, India took on Australia in a marquee game at the World Cup. After missing out in the first game against South Africa, all eyes were turned towards Shikhar Dhawan, who adorns the role of a ten-headed demon when Team India is playing in an ICC event. However, his innings began with him struggling, and struggling badly. Not in form in 2019 - he averaged only around 32 in 14 innings along with poor outings in the warm-ups too - Dhawan was dancing to the tunes of Austraia’s seamers Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc upfront for a while.
In the fourth over of the innings, Starc bounced the left-hander out with a ball that touched the 149-kmph mark. The very next ball, Dhawan somehow dug out a yorker and feared that he had hit his stumps along the way. Two overs later, Cummins repeated the bowling efforts. Short balls were bowled, and one even just about missed his outside edge en route the keeper. The third bouncer on the trot had him defending in an ugly manner, and it was no secret. Dhawan was sweating. He was uncomfortable.
It was around the same time that Nadal was struggling in his finale as well.
And it was around the same time that the two decided to embrace the challenges and play with a renewed zest.
This change came for Dhawan when Nathan Coulter-Nile, possibly the weakest bowler in the attack from Australia - was given the ball. The Indian began cutting and pulling with ease, and sent his first over for 14 runs. He gained enough confidence in those six balls, and that was all that was needed. He started charging down the ground, read the bowler’s intentions well, found the gaps at will, and soon charged into the nineties with a ramp over the keeper’s head. Three overs later, he pushed the ball to mid-off to get his 100th run only to nearly run out Kohli.
Once the third umpire gave the green signal, however, the delayed celebrations broke out in full swing. The twirling of the moustache was missing, but the raised arms and the wide grin on a big stage along with a rapturous applause that followed might have been all too familiar to Dhawan though.
Tweaking his technical stance - he batted outside the leg stump when facing the left-handers and covering it against the right-handers today - controlling his aggression initially, playing according to the merit of the ball and finally raising his game to an unmatched level after getting his eye in has helped Dhawan average 65.15 in ICC events.
As Nadal slumped to the ground and as Dhawan laughed in joy, the world united to celebrate two lesser legends who have made a name for themselves on the toughest court and on the toughest stage. The universe does find strange ways to restore balance.