India vs South Africa 2019 T20s: Can Shikhar Dhawan silence his critics again?
The swords are out yet again after a poor show by Shikhar Dhawan in the T20 series as well as the one-dayers in West Indies. While Dhawan's ODI spot seems secure for now owing to some tremendous performances in recent years, especially in the ICC tournaments, the same cannot be said about his T20 position, as he has been constantly floundering in the format.
Dhawan managed scores of 1, 23 and 3 in the three T20s in West Indies followed by 2 and 36 in the ODIs. While there is no doubt that the left-hander posses the dynamic skills to succeed in the shortest format, his numbers tell a different picture -- he averages merely 27.28 at a middling strike rate of 129.55 with nine fifties to his name. Compare this to his opening partner Rohit Sharma, who averages 32.72 at a strike rate of nearly 137 and has four hundreds apart from 17 fifties to his name.
While consistency has never been a forte of the southpaw, he seems to be stretching his luck too far in the T20s. In 52 T20 innings, he has been dismissed in single-figure scores 20 times, which is a shockingly high-percentage, particularly for an opening batsman. There have been only two phases in Dhawan's career when he has performed consistently in the format. In five matches from February 18, 2018, to March 8, 2018, he registered scores of 72, 24, 47, 90 and 55. The first three games were in South Africa, and the last two in Sri Lanka.
The second run-making phase in Dhawan's T20 career was when he registered scores of 43 and 92 (against West Indies at home), and 76 and 41 (against Australia away from home). These knocks came towards the end of last year in November. Dhawan did get starts in New Zealand earlier this year, but failed to register a single score above 30. Things did not improve when he returned to international cricket in West Indies, after missing out on most of the World Cup owing to the injury he picked up during the match-winning hundred against Australia.
The thing with Dhawan is, you cannot write him off, for every time his epitaph comes up, he responds in most emphatic fashion. He went into the World Cup under pressure, but rose to the occasion with a typical hundred against the Aussies, before fate had its say. Dhawan though will be 34 in December, and doesn't have time on his side. Lokesh Rahul is vying for a spot in the top order and Rishabh Pant or Manish Pandey could also take up the position.
A poor series against South Africa could put Dhawan's World T20 hopes in jeopardy. In contrast, he also has the ability to silence the critics like he has done so many times before. Which Dhawan will turn up against Proteas remains to be seen.