Once pacer Vinay Kumar received this green flag to begin his run-up, he trotted in towards Mohalis batting cages, only to be stopped mid-run by Shikhar Dhawans outstretched palm. Outfield kya hai? enquired Dhawan, simultaneously gardening a stubborn tuft of grass.
Facing the left-hander, Vinays finger pointed towards square-leg, midwicket and cover. Smart, for he was going to bowl a leg-side line to a batsman who could do no wrong on the off side. With protection. Only, it pitched on middle and the batsman swooped around the ball and clattered it inside-out, towards his favoured region.
Boundary boss, boundary, Dhawan said with a wave of his arm. Clearly displeased and with hands on hips, Vinay said something inaudible about off-side and circle. He perhaps meant that the ball never would have penetrated the in-field. Dhawan didnt reply, but just twisted his palm and smiled.
The gesture was far more articulate than any words could ever have been. It said: Throw every infielder and outfielder on the offside. And on this side, even God wont come between my blade and the fence.
This, after all, is Mohali. And in Mohali, were he to drive his 4x4 through its narrow, traffic clogged lanes, he would pick, find and create more gaps than any Evel Knievel-inspired daredevil with a souped up motorbike. Here, after all, is where the legend of Dhawan was born just seven months back. When in his only Test innings to date, and with a congested off-side field to deal with, Dhawan plucked 124 out of his total of 187 runs from thin air, leaving Michael Clarke, Australia and the rest of the cricket watching the world in his wake.
It is good to be back, he said simply, doing his best Schwarzenegger impression at the press conference on the eve of the third one-dayer against Australia. Quite like Arnie, he attended the media gathering in a sleeveless top. And here in Mohali, his den, those biceps, triceps drew more attention than they do anywhere else in the world.
Has he got more tattoos inked in, some asked. Others wanted to know about his wife and kids. A query regarding his career turnaround was thrown in too. Was it mental or was it technical, they wanted to know. I just smile a lot more, he said, smiling to drive home the point. Finally, there was talk of some cricket. When, the questioner posed, did he