Chin up champion: Dhawan remains the victor, with or without World Cup glory
When Shikhar Dhawan was casually asked in a candid chat, who he feels has a similar style to the southpaw, Dhawan put forward the name of Rishabh Pant and said that the guy would go on to become a very well known name in Indian cricket. Little did Dhawan know at that point that a few days later, Pant would actually replace him in India's 15-member World Cup squad.
In India's second World Cup clash, Dhawan was hit on the thumb on a rising delivery from pacer Nathan Coulter-Nile when he was on 23. After being attended by the Indian physio, the opener continued his inning and added 93 more runs to bring up his sixth century in ICC events. However, he did not come out to field and it was later found out that he has suffered a fracture at the base of the first metacarpal in his left hand and will not be able to further take part in the World Cup campaign.
The story will become a part of Indian folklore just as a 16-year-old Sachin Tendulkar getting hit by Waqar Younis in the last test of India's 1989 tour of Pakistan and going on to notch up a match-saving half-century with a bloody nose or Anil Kumble coming out to bowl with a fractured jaw against West Indies in 2002 and claiming the priced scalp of Brian Lara.
Dhawan playing on with a broken thumb was indeed a brave act but as they say, there is a fine line between bravery and foolishness. You can argue that had he not exerted himself that day against Australia, he might have recovered quicker and would still have been with the Indian team in the UK, but it is a crime to judge the actions of champions with the mindset of laymen. Dhawan is an absolute champion and any champion player would have pushed himself to the limit.
You shudder just to think how heartbreaking it would been for an athlete who has channelised all his energy and emotions towards an event for several years for his body to fail him at the worst moment. All the hours that has spent on the field, in the nets, in travelling, giving his blood and sweat to the game, not being able to spend time with his family, sacrificing so much, have all been outweighed by a fracture. All the effort than an athlete puts in is a means to the end which is to perform for your nation, on the biggest stage when it matters the most. It tears your heart apart to even think that just when an athlete is on his prime, he suffers a freak injury.
The World Cup is the most prized possession in the life of any cricketer. It comes once in four years and there is only a period through which a player can maintain top-notch fitness and form at the highest level. Some of the greats of the game like Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting may have been able to stretch their limits but for most players, two World Cup editions is the window that they get. In Dhawan's case, he already debuted for India quite late in his career and you never know whether he will be part of India's scheme of things for the 2023 World Cup. Regardless, the Delhi boy will always remain a champion in the minds of cricket lovers.
The 33-year-old is a complete entertainer both on and off the field. In fact, this is the mantra by which he lives his life. Be it twirling his moustache or his signature thigh-five move after every dismissal, he intentionally plays to the gallery in order to bring a smile to the faces of the spectators. Even when he gets out, he is one player who always sports a smile on his face, no matter how dejected he is walking off the field. But even a man so jaunty as him seemed so low and heartbroken in the video message that he put out on Twitter to inform the public of his slow recovery.
But this is how life goes you can do little about it. In cricket, just as in life, there are few things which can combat luck. If you are not destined to be present at a particular place at a particular time, no matter how hard you try, it just doesn't work out. This only takes us back to the axiom that how small an individual is in this larger cosmos. Man proposes, God disposes, they say and this cannot be truer in this case.
God willing, when India lift the World Cup trophy, in a few days from now, it would be Rishabh Pant who would receive the medal, courtesy of being part of India's World Cup squad but as the tradition in cricket goes, one is quietly confident that skipper Virat Kohli will ensure that Shikhar Dhawan is at the centre of that 'champion' group photograph, with the trophy aloft in his hands.
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