Shikhar Dhawan reveals how he taps into ‘the energy’ and treats success and failure with equanimity
Top-order batsmen generally approach life in one of two ways: with the rose-tinted glasses of runs behind them, or the foggy perspective of a run drought. Competition is so intense, and the pressure to keep improving so overwhelming, that runs, or the lack of them, tend to define their outlook.
So it’s rare to find a batsman of renown, especially one who has just completed a decade at the top level, who refuses to equate his sense of self-worth with the runs that flow from his bat. ” Mujhe fark nehi padta ussey
,” says Shikhar Dhawan, India opener, measuring his words during a conversation with TOI from Dubai.
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That doesn’t, however, mean the Delhi cricketer isn’t up for the challenge. It’s just that Dhawan’s career has been buffeted mercilessly by the waves of fickle form. He has made so many comebacks, often waited so long to court success – only to see it slip immediately away from his grasp – that he has honed his mind, instead of his bat, to be ‘in the zone’.
It’s a kind of alternative healing in a high-pressure job, only Dhawan calls it “the energy”. It helps to keep him calm in crisis, as he takes great pains to explain. “I am a big believer in energy, what energy you carry on the field of play and outside it. I make sure my energy stays positive, strong… chahe koi sa bhi safar ho mere life mey
,” he says.
Cricket fans can recognise Dhawan the social-media entertainer, the mischievous moustache-twirling prankster or the impactful opener. Yet there are sides to this cricketer which have eluded the public, like Dhawan the amateur psychologist. Or Dhawan the mental-conditioning coach. Or even Dhawan the philosopher and seeker of cosmic truths.
” Insaan sabse zyada apney aap se baat karta hai, so if you think and talk negatively to yourself, that energy won’t take you anywhere. You have to be your best friend, not your best victim,” he says. “I have made so many comebacks, seen more ups and downs in life than most people. I had to recognise that failure is not a negative thing. It opens the mind. A little bit of stress works wonders. But if that stress is too much, match mey haath pair nahi chalega.”
Mind you, this is Dhawan talking after having scored back-to-back tons in the IPL for Delhi Capitals. He is enjoying his best IPL strike rate ever (149.03) and has the Australia tour to look forward to. He just took to Twitter to celebrate a decade at international level, so he is in a good frame of mind. “I am very happy. I always felt I had the potential and talent to play for so long at that level,” he says.
Perfect time then, for a spot of cricket philosophizing. What would the Dhawan of today, a big-match player with the best-ever ICC Champions Trophy average of 77.68, have told the Dhawan of 2010? The one who scored a second-ball duck on ODI debut and missed the next 19 matches, including the 2011 World Cup?
“If I met myself in 2010, I would say, ‘ hamesha khush rahna chahiye.’ This is my batting philosophy too. I will tell my younger self not to compete with anyone. Agar aap No. 1 bhi ho jaye, aapko sukoon nehi milega.
“Once you are in competition with so-and-so, you start comparing, and the by-product of comparison is jealousy. I think differently now. I love to contribute rather than compare.”
Profound indeed, but then one doesn’t survive in international cricket for so long without evolving. Dhawan divulges that he has sought out people to help calm the mind. “I have heard Shivani didi (Shivani Verma, a teacher in the Brahma Kumaris spiritual movement). Then I listen to Sadhguruji, Gopal Dasji. When I connected with the spiritual, I learnt how we should think in what situation. But it’s one thing to listen and another to implement.”
He has tried to bring the same ‘situational analysis’ to his batting. “A batsman at the top stays there only because he knows his own technique. The wrong mindset can hurt. If there is fear, sharir nahi chalega.”
Dhawan talks of New Zealand’s India tour in 2016, when he was “desperate” to score. “I knew I would be dropped if I didn’t and I had a broken finger too. I was terrified. No matter how much physical effort I put in, success did not come because I was not relaxed. I lost the plot.”
He pauses, then adds, “But then I went to the Champions Trophy and I started scoring again.”
It’s the eternal cycle, and Dhawan is well acquainted with it. Now with the Australia tour looming, and unfulfilled Test and World Cup ambitions to seek, the cycle starts all over again. The IPL has been a good start.
Dhawan, however, is still thinking about why the runs returned to him in England in 2017. “It’s the energies that change,” he says, satisfied with the explanation.