When Graeme Pollock was asked to reflect on his record-breaking 222 not out for Eastern Province against Border in a List A game almost 40 years ago, South Africa's greatest ever batsman was quick to attribute some of the credit to the opposition's captain.
By Tristan Holme
Pollock only came in at No. 4 in that 60-over game in East London, but because Border skipper Gerald Nelson bowled his best bowlers out early, Pollock was able to savage 78 from the last four overs. The unfortunate part-timer Peter Haxton went for 62 in four overs and never played another List A game.
Pollock's genius has gone down in folklore, so comparisons between South Africa's Cricketer of the 20th Century and Shikhar Dhawan are at this stage limited — yet they do share similar philosophies.
When Zimbabwe's cricketers attempted to pry some tips out of Dhawan over dinner in Bulawayo during India's recent tour, the left-hander shrugged his shoulders and said that he just tries to remain still, watch the ball, and hit it. The struggling Zimbabwean players looked on hoping for more, but none was forthcoming.
Pollock's summation of his technique was equally simple: "I just think that people get a bit overtechnical. My basic was as long as you're balanced and your head is still and you watch the ball, you've got a good chance."
Unlike Pollock, Dhawan didn't need to rely on the charity of part-time bowlers as he smashed 248 from 150 balls against South Africa A on Monday. He drew level with Richards' score in the 42nd over, and went past it when he slammed Beuran Hendricks for a monstrous six. Only Ali Brown has scored more than Dhawan in a List A game, having hit 268 from 160 deliveries for Surrey against Glamorgan in 2002.
The LC de Villiers Oval at the University of Pretoria is not a large ground and its pitch was flat — a far cry from the Centurion wicket down the road, where India suffered at the hands of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel on their last trip to South Africa in 2010/11.
Yet while conditions may have been in his favour, Dhawan was up against a bowling attack of some repute. Rusty Theron and Roelof van der Merwe have both played one-day cricket for the Proteas, while left-armer Beuran Hendricks was the find of the 2012/13 domestic season, when he claimed 35 wickets in seven first-class matches as the Cape Cobras clinched the four-day title.
Hardus Viljoen came up opening the bowling with Marchant de Lange at Easterns and matches De Lange for power and pace, while offspinner Dane Piedt has emerged as one of South Africa's better prospects for the future.
Out of the park
Yet such was the fury of Dhawan's batting that none of them had an answer to the 27-year-old from Delhi as he hammered seven sixes and 30 fours. One of those sixes saw him club the mighty Viljoen over the construction site where Cricket South Africa are busy constructing their new High Performance Centre, while another sailed onto the university netball court. The power and timing were superb.
Most impressive, though, was the longevity. Those who were fortunate enough to see Sachin Tendulkar's double-ton against South Africa in Gwalior three years ago will remember the exhausted look on his face in the final over of the innings, when he couldn't run another single. There is a reason why innings such as Dhawan's happen once in a blue moon, and it boils down to a batsman's ability to apply his technique — however simple or complicated — at the highest intensity for a good 40 overs. In doing so Dhawan has shown a new side of his fast-advancing abilities.
(Tristan is a freelance cricket writer based in Cape Town, South Africa.)