'He is a class act. He plays exactly the same way when he plays for India.'
'He is a fantastic one-day cricketer. He will do well in the World Cup.'
Delhi Capitals advisor Sourav Ganguly described Shikhar Dhawan as one of the best opening batsmen in the world while revealing that his franchise was “desperate” to rope in the left-hander after he left Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Back with his home team after being traded with Vijay Shankar, Shabaz Nadeem and Abhishek Sharma, the India opener regained his touch to smash an unbeaten 97 from 63 balls and script a seven-wicket win for Delhi Capitals over Kolkata Knight Riders, in Kolkata, on Friday night.
"Probably he's one of the best opening batsmen in the world. We were desperate for Shikhar Dhawan when we heard that he's going to leave SRH. Good that he is coming off.
"It is an important phase of the tournament. It's good to see Shikhar get a good score with the tournament entering the second phase," Ganguly said at the post-match press conference.
"It was more like a Shikhar Dhawan innings. Once he gets set, he takes the game away. He is a class act. He plays exactly the same way when he plays for India. He's been scoring consistently in the shorter format in International cricket," he added.
Chasing 179 for victory, Dhawan was, however, denied a maiden T20 century after Colin Ingram hit the winning runs with a six off Piyush Chawla to seal victory with seven balls to spare.
"Hundreds are not always possible in T20 cricket. The important thing is to win the match," said Ganguly.
Speaking about the upcoming World Cup, Ganguly pointed out that Dhawan was adjudged ‘Best batsman’ during India's runners-up finish at the Champions Trophy 2017 in England.
"World Cup is a different format but Shikhar plays very well in England. He is a fantastic one-day cricketer. He will do well in the World Cup. He was the batsman of the series in the Champions Trophy," said the former left-handed batsman.
Friday’s victory catapulted Delhi to the top-four and Ganguly felt his team bowled exceptionally well.
"We bowled exceptionally well to restrict KKR to 178 for seven; it was actually a 200-run pitch. We chased it down easily. It's always great winning here."
Delhi were 57/2 inside power play but Dhawan's century and his partnership with Rishabh Pant turned things around for Delhi. Dashing wicketkeeper-batsman Pant, on his part, showed immense maturity as he played second fiddle to Dhawan during his 31-ball 46.
"Rishabh played according to the situation; we pushed him up to four, to give him more opportunity to bat. He is a great talent. He is only going to get better along with Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer," Ganguly said.
On Delhi's decision to field after Shreyas Iyer won the toss.
"In T20s, you normally chase on great pitches. Chasing becomes easier because of the dew factor. So most of the teams look to chase," he said.
"KKR play here (Eden Gardens) everyday; I don't," Ganguly said, when asked if KKR misread the wicket.
Stating that there is still a long way to go in the tournament, he added: "Every game is important, because the goal is to be in the last four."
Ganguly also made a special mention of Ishant Sharma, who bowled a wicket maiden, dismissing Englishman Joe Denly for a golden duck on his IPL debut.
"The best part of the game was how we bowled in the match. When we took Ishant Sharma, many said that he is a Test bowler, but he has been the best bowler for the last six-odd matches."
Asked if their bowlers had a special plan for danger man Andre Russell, he said: "For Russell, there is only one plan, keep praying that he hits one up in the air and is caught."
On his new role, Ganguly said: "It is much more difficult to sit in the dug-out than playing in the middle." Ganguly insisted that he and his new partner in Delhi's head coach and former Australian rival Ricky Ponting were determined to turn Delhi's fortunes around.
"We are determined to turn this team around. Both of us have played in teams which have won around the world. So there's a lot of self-pride in turning teams around."
Ganguly was at the centre of attention for his dual role as IPL franchise Delhi Capitals advisor while serving as the president of Cricket Association of Bengal. There were talks of "conflict of interest" with few of his detractors claiming that he would have 'a say' in pitch preparation at Eden Gardens.
Asked about it, he replied: "I have played so much cricket and seen so much cricket that I don't need to do all those things. Good teams will play on all pitches, and we are a good side. I know many stories are cooked up, but I can't do anything about it. KKR was my team, DC is also my team."