The year 2016 was all about Virat Kohli. At the start of the year, the Indian skipper was one of the best batsmen along with Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Joe Root. At the end of the year, he was the best in the world - with 1,215 runs in Tests and 739 runs in ODIs in the year.
In 2016, Dhawan endured his worst year in International cricket. In three years prior to last year, the southpaw had established himself as an integral part of Team India. But found himself in cold last year.
In four test matches last year, the opener scored a mere 156 runs at an average of 26. Owing to his poor form, he was dropped from the starting XI for the fourth Test against West Indies. Dhawan was recalled for the New Zealand series but failed to shrug off his poor form. A thumb injury in the third Test against Kiwis in Kolkata prematurely ended his time in the team in 2016. On the other hand, KL Rahul and Murali Vijay cemented their place in the team as the opening duo with consistent performances.
Things turned from bad to worse earlier this year. In his comeback series against England, Dhawan put up scores of 1 & 11 in the first two ODIs and was eventually released from the squad to play domestic cricket. Consistency was the biggest issue and 'Gabbar' acknowledged that in an interview with Times of India in February this year.
"I could not be consistent. I tried fully, but it didn't happen, otherwise I didn't feel that I could do anything better. I won't share the details...but I'm working to get that consistency. As a batsman, I always analyse, and as a professional, I try to improve."
He worked hard on his game and things took an upward turn from there. The revival began with the 10th edition of IPL. Playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad, Dhawan raked up 479 runs with a strike rate of 127.39 to finish the tournament as third-highest run-getter.
The improvement in form got him selected for the Champions Trophy. The Delhi cricketer lit the tournament on fire with his sparkling performance. Dhawan amassed 338 runs at the event - the highest - to take India to the finals. He continued to deliver for India in West Indies, when he scored two fifties in the five-match series.
So, when Murali Vijay was ruled out of the Sri Lanka tour, selectors didn't look beyond Dhawan to travel with the team as the back-up opener. KL Rahul and Abhinav Mukund were expected to open in Galle but viral fever downed Rahul and a change of fortunes put Dhawan in the team. What happened next was carnage.
The left-handed batsman smashed Sri Lankan bowlers all over the park to score his 5th Test ton in his comeback match. It was hammer and tongs as Dhawan reached within touching distance of a double century before tea on day one. He eventually fell for 190 trying to hit one over mid-off. He helped India post their highest total on day one in away Test with a solid 399/3. In the session between lunch and tea, Dhawan added 126 runs. Yes, in one session. Sigh!
The Delhi cricketer has been India's biggest match-winner in 2017 and most importantly most of his runs have come away from home. It's not that Kohli is not making runs, it's business as usual for the skipper, but Dhawan has snatched all the attention with his bat.
Despite several talents, India have long and heavily relied on Kohli for runs and match-winning knocks. And Dhawan's form has come as a welcome relief for the captain. Know as an impact player, the southpaw is making the biggest impact in 2017.
Feature image: ICC