Dhawan peaks on debut

AS

Shikhar Dhawan raised his bat, threw his head back and laughed hysterically at the skies. In the stands, in a tune usually saved for the greats, the sparse but vociferous crowd chanted his name in loop.

Below them, Harbhajan Singh burst out of the dressing room and stood beside Virat Kohli. As everyone in the throng applauded, Bhajji and Virat paid their personal tributes to the man of the moment. The offspinner twirled the edges of his moustache; the batsman pointed to his tattoos. India's newest Test hero was being welcomed to the big league in a style favoured by brash young India.

Indeed, Dhawan himself did not dial that intense batsman-to-almighty hotline like most others do at such moments in international cricket. His was more the 'I-own-the-world' celebration seen at a gulli game.

In fact, for the entirety of his enthralling innings, Dhawan treated the Australian bowling rather like he would street cricketers in his backyard. Today, Mohali was his Paschim Vihar.

In his first innings in Test cricket, Dhawan did not just score a century, he produced India's best on debut, a 168-ball 185, and unbeaten still. He broke the record for the fastest hundred for a debutant — reached with a dive to complete a single on the 85th ball he faced — and bested the highest score by an Indian first-timer so far, the great Gundappa Viswanath's 137 in 1969, by some distance.

In the two hours from lunch to tea, the left-handed Dhawan went from 0 to 106. Having waited long for his place in the Test side, he appeared to be in a tearing hurry to show what the game's grandest stage had been missing. "It just looked that way because all my shots ran away to the boundary so fast," he laughed at the end of play.

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