HAMILTON, New Zealand (AP) -- India's opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan may have had a lean scoring spell in Australia before the Cricket World Cup, but the turnaround in his form at the tournament has come as no surprise to captain M.S. Dhoni.
Dhawan came into the World Cup down on form, if not confidence. He had scores of 2, 1, 8 and 38 during India's one-day tri-series against Australia and England and made 167 runs in six innings during the preceding test series against Australia.
Dhoni has been given credit for sticking by Dhawan during his run drought, and for personally reassuring the 29-year-old left-hander.
He told reporters after Dhawan's second century at this World Cup led India to an eight-wicket win over Ireland that "it's important to back players and we try to do it to the extent we can."
Dhoni said he could see how hard Dhawan was working on his game and knew that degree of effort would eventually pay off.
"I felt though he had a tough series (in Australia), still I felt we had put a lot of effort in him," he said. "Not to forget without his contribution it would have been very difficult to win the Champions Trophy. So we always believed in him. But the final step that needs to be taken (comes) from the individual, and I felt he prepared well for these ODIs."
That preparation was made in the knowledge that Dhawan has a key role to play in India's batting.
"He's not someone who is happy getting a 50. He knows that the team needs him to score big runs," Dhoni said. "So once he gets to his 50, he hits the next milestone which is a hundred. With him doing that, it becomes slightly easy for some of the other guys to bat around him."
Dhawan started this World Cup with a 73 against Pakistan, made 137 in India's win over South Africa and, after after scores of 14 and 9 against the United Arab Emirates and the West Indies, reached his eighth one-day international century on Tuesday from only 84 balls.
He hit 11 fours and five sixes, and batted with a freedom and confidence that suggested his troubles in Australia are well behind him.
"All in all, I'm quite happy with the way he's gone forward because it's not that easy to come out of a phase where you've not scored a lot of runs," Dhoni said. "But at the same time ... he kept believing in himself."