India vs West Indies 2016: Did Shikhar Dhawan just cement his place for the rest of the series?
Analysis of whether Shikhar can keep his place in the side for the remainder of the series after his fifty in the first innings
India’s long run of test cricket has started and they are off to the perfect start in the Caribbean. The day 1 of the first test belonged to the skipper Virat Kohli who notched up his 12th test ton to put India in a commanding position at 302/4, after he won the toss and decided to bat first.
One big question before the game was about the opening slot, whether Shikhar Dhawan would be trusted again or the in-form KL Rahul would be rewarded for his recent run of form. To the surprise of many, Shikhar was the preferred choice again and he did answer the call as the opening batsman scored 84 runs off 147 balls but missed out on a well-deserved century.
It was not easy for the batsmen up front against the new ball. The pitch at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua had steep bounce and Shanon Gabriel was hitting 140 clicks consistently which was making life difficult for the openers. He indeed accounted for Murali Vijay’s wicket off a short rising delivery in the 7th over.
Shikhar was also not pretty comfortable and was tested by a number of bouncers early on.
But the left-hander was determined to stay there for as long as possible. Patience was the key as he allowed plenty of deliveries go by without making an effort to score. His hard work paid off later as the fast bowlers worn out and that is when he cashed in. He started hitting his favourite drives and cuts to showcase the batting talent he possesses.
Shikhar and Virat put up a hundred partnership but the former got out soon, trapped in front by Devendra Bishoo. He might have lost a chance to score a hundred but his gutsy innings showed that he wants to play test cricket desperately.
His career has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. He started off with a bang in 2013 against Australia at Mohali where he scored a blistering innings of 187 runs off 174 balls which was also the fastest hundred on test debut by any player.
The dashing opener then went on to win the Player of the Tournament award in the 2013 Champions Trophy which India won remaining undefeated. He has a gifted ability of stroke making and there is a tinge of elegance in his game, due to which everyone started believing that India had found the ideal replacement for Virender Sehwag.
But the Delhi-born failed to be consistent and suffered many dry runs, especially overseas. His vulnerability against the short balls was exposed and the bowlers started exploiting it. Since then he has had a stop-start career. He would fail miserably and all of a sudden produce a magical innings.
The left-hander has a history of turning up with big performances when his position in the side had been under the hammer.
But now there is an added pressure on him due to the presence of KL Rahul in the squad. Rahul has been in a tremendous form off late and was the man of the series in the 3-match ODI series in Zimbabwe, where he scored a hundred on debut.
Rahul had a decent run in the IPL 2016 as well where he scored 397 runs with 4 half-centuries despite the presence of the big guns like Kohli and de Villiers. He has made the most of whatever chances he has been given so far. The Karnataka player has scored 2 centuries already in 5 test matches and certainly possesses the technique to be a successful test opener.
India once had a settled opening combination in the form of Gambhir and Sehwag and both played a pivotal role in taking India to the number one spot in test rankings. But since their departure, India has struggled to find a solid opening pair.
Murali Vijay has done well both at home and away and is almost a certainty for the opening slot which means that there is a race between Dhawan and Rahul to occupy the other spot.
Going by their current forms, Shikhar was lucky to get a nod ahead of Rahul in the first test. He did turn up with a fighting knock but he needs to bat well throughout the series. His place in the side is far from being safe with just one innings because a player of Rahul’s class cannot be sidelined for too long. Therefore, it’s high time that Shikhar needs to perform consistently.