” Haathi ke khane ke dant alag aur dikhane ke dant alag hote hain (the elephant uses a different teeth to chew food and shows a different teeth on the outside),” the 35-year-old said after India’s 66-run win in the opening one-dayer against England here on Tuesday.
“If you feel it is difficult, it will be difficult. I knew the ball was swinging and I couldn’t play my shots. But we also knew that it would become a better pitch to bat as the game went on.
“With experience this (switching from defence to attack) will come smoothly.”
The Gahunje track has been in the news before, more famously when India lost the first of a four-Test series inside three days on a rank turner against Steve Smith‘s Australia in 2017.
Otherwise known for producing slow batathons in first-class matches, the strip also has produced even contests between bat and ball more than once in the Ranji Trophy.
Tuesday’s track was exactly one of those rare varieties which offered help for the bowlers while batsmen who got their eye in were able to play their shots.
But Dhawan has also gained a reputation for not only dodging the bullets coming off the pitch, but also producing knocks of significance when talk about his place in the team begins in hushed tones.
“I am absolutely happy because it was a great comeback by the team,” he said, referring to India bundling out England for 251 after the visitors were 135 for no loss in the 15th over, during the post-match presentation.
“I put in pretty much all my efforts and eventually the smart work paid off,” he added.
If ‘smart work’ was a euphemism for surviving the initial testing conditions and riding one’s luck, he was spot on.
Mark Wood troubled him and his opening partner Rohit Sharma with his pace and swing, as did Sam Curran.
But both the English new ball bowlers lacked the metronomic accuracy of a Glenn McGrath or a James Anderson, and the Indian openers were too good to let go the loose deliveries unpunished.
Dhawan cut, drove and pulled the England attack with relish. Wood, Curran, the spinners Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali, as well as bowling all-rounder Tom Curran – all of them suffered from his forceful yet exquisite stroke-making.
It seemed as if being rested during the T20 series didn’t matter at all to him.
“I kept myself positive during the T20 series, focussing on my fitness. I was in a good mental space and kept working on my batting. I knew that if I get a chance I will take it,” he said.
Nor did the elephant-toothed pitch seem to bother him.
“The pressure is always there, I am experienced enough to handle pressure,” he said.
“I knew what shots to play and we have a knack to read the wicket correctly and communicate as a batting unit.
“Once I got set, I played my shots.”
Dhawan’s dismissal was a mini-paradox. He visibly slowed down after crossing the 90 mark, and then went for a big heave on 98 to be caught in the deep.
He said he had no regrets on missing what would have been his 18th one-day century.
“I do feel a bit disappointed but I am not a person who feels too sad or too happy,” he said.
“I played that shot in a rhythm, unfortunately it went into the hands. There is always next time.”
Hopefully he will bare his teeth more often and one wouldn’t need an elephantine memory to recall his previous big knock.