It's time for India to drop Shikhar Dhawan for Test Series against England
Another year, another overseas series for India; this time in England. After losing the ODI series, India would be looking to get some revenge in the Test series. The last time around, they lost 3-1, but nonetheless, had a great victory at Lord's. India, with the absence of MS Dhoni this time may seem a little weaker, but still have a formidable squad put up. Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma (after a good county season!) make up a daunting pace attack, with the all-round abilities of Ravi Ashwin and Hardik Pandya. Arguably, India have the best batsman in the world in Virat Kohli, supported by the technically sound Ajinkya Rahane. Murali Vijay has been a rock at the top of the order, proving his mettle with a string of good performances in the overseas tours. The emergence of KL Rahul has brought in an important question: Should the under-performing Shikhar Dhawan be dropped from the test XI?
In the recently concluded practice match against Essex, Dhawan was dismissed for ducks in both the innings (a golden duck in the first one!). He might be having a rough patch right now, but his past performances against the red ball, on English soil, haven't really helped his case either. During the tour of England in 2014, he made 122 runs in 6 innings, with a lowly average of 20.33. This series was instrumental in finding out the flaws of Dhawan, where his problems outside off stump and with a swinging ball were highly publicized. He was rightly criticized for committing too early to the line of the ball, thereby not accounting the movement of the ball. This often resulted in him chasing the ball instead of letting it come to him. This often resulted in him being caught behind, hence, putting the pressure on the middle order.
Barring his emphatic test debut, he has always been seen struggling in the test whites. In the away series against South Africa in 2013, he scored a bleak 76 runs in 4 innings, and followed the aforementioned England series with another abysmal showing at the Border-Gavaskar trophy in 2014, making 167 runs in 6 innings, averaging a poor 27.83. This led to him being dropped in favour of KL Rahul, but soon made a comeback into the team. However, in the limited overs format, where the pitch is true to its bounce and pace, he has been India's go-to-man, with impressive overseas performances during ICC Champions Trophy 2013 and ICC World Cup, 2015.
Dhawan has struggled for form in the longer format, with some of his problems being the tendency of poking outside off and playing beside the line of the ball at all times rather than over it. Some of the merits that work for him in the limited form, such as playing close to his body, do not work for him in the longer format because of the parallax error that he undergoes since he doesn't get his eyes over the ball while playing the moving ball. This has made him an easy target for the swing bowlers, such as Jimmy Anderson and Dale Steyn, who look to exploit his weakness and crumble the batting lineup.
Contrarily, his biggest competition for the opening spot - KL Rahul - has been in a purple patch of form. After a forgettable debut in the Boxing Day test at MCG (batting at number 6 & number 3!), he bounced back with a century in the subsequent Sydney test. This century was a result of a change in the batting order, where he was promoted to the opening spot. His technique and handling of the new ball didn't go unnoticed and he retained his spot as an opener in the away tours of West Indies and Sri Lanka. Subsequent selection into the limited overs format helped him get to showcase his versatility. He has a good resistance, brilliant technique and is known to convert his starts. A fine wicketkeeper too, he can provide an alternative to the wicketkeeping position, in case of an injury crisis. He has usually converted his starts into big scores but has been seen being clumsily dismissed, giving rise to the notion of him being an 'all-or-nothing' player. In the 24 matches he has played, he has scored a commendable 1512 runs, averaging a good 40.86 runs. 2018 has been a fruitful year for him, with him being the third highest scorer at IPL (659 runs in 14 matches at an average of 54.91!!!).
With our team's history of dropping under-performing openers, (we miss you, Gambhir-Sehwag!) can this call for the drop of Gabbar?