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India vs New Zealand 2016: The last nail in coffin for Shikhar Dhawan?

Can Virat Kohli and company ignore Gautam Gambhir even after another failure by Shikhar Dhawan?

The Kolkata Test might just be Dhawan’s first and last this series

Earlier this month, the BCCI selection committee faced much flak from the public after their decision to ignore Gautam Gambhir for the New Zealand Test series. Earlier today, the Indian Team management faced similar flak after their decision to choose an out of form Shikhar Dhawan over the in-form Gambhir in the playing XI.

If Gambhir had done enough to make a comeback after 2 years, he certainly had done enough to be a part of the playing XI as well. With an old rival returning to the fray, bringing along a brilliant form from the recently concluded Duleep Trophy, Dhawan walked into the Eden pitch shrouded with pressure.

Losing his wicket to Mark Henry easily, Dhawan yet again demonstrated familiar weaknesses. It took only the first 4 balls of the innings to once again wonder, “was this the last nail in the coffin for Dhawan?”

Topsy-turvy record

An uncertain Test career looms over Dhawan

Only138 runs in the West Indies, before being dropped for the last Test in Port of Spain, and mediocre 150 runs in the Test series against South Africa last year at home, is where the southpaw has precisely fallen short. Shikhar Dhawan’s performance has been topsy-turvy, with many fingers pointing towards his inconsistency.

Then came the Duleep Trophy, where Dhawan got a chance to play the final and better his form, but he failed yet again.

Even after being dropped for the fourth and last Test against the West Indies, and also in the Kanpur Test against New Zealand, skipper Kohli showed his repeated preference to back Dhawan, with whom he shares a great rapport.

But Dhawan has been under the lens for quite some time now for his poor form. And that further makes room for a comparison between him and Gambhir.

Gambhir’s Recall

Gambhir was recalled to the Test Team but not selected in the playing XI

While his tremendous form in the recently concluded Duleep Trophy, where he scored a mammoth 356 runs in five innings at an average of 71.20, has been spoken  a about already, it is actually Gambhir’s record in the Ranji Trophy which provides a better benchmark of his consistency. With as many as 569 runs in 14 innings, the KKR skipper was Delhi’s highest run-scorer in the 2014-’15 season. The next season, he was Delhi’s second highest run scorer with 488 runs in 14 innings.

With Gambhir’s justified recall to the national team, Dhawan appears to be under more pressure. True, Gambhir was brought in as a cover, and not even selected in the playing XI, but his presence in the dugout definitely takes the struggling batsman out of his comfort zone.

Another factor which may cost Dhawan a berth in the playing XI against England later this year, is his lack of experience. And when one talks about experience at the top, only a few can match Double G’s credentials. With more than 4000 runs, 50 Tests and nine centuries on his resume, Dhawan’s experience is of no match.

And his record in the Indian Premier League too stands proof of his consistency. He has captained KKR to two titles. With another failure in the second innings, you can expect to see Gambhir open in the third and final Test. India has a long season of Tests coming up at home and with KL Rahul’s return post injury, the axe may fall on Dhawan.

Flak on social media

Dhawan is facing a barrage of criticism on social media, courtesy his flop show at Eden Gardens today.

Not only Shikhar Dhawan, captain Virat Kohli also is being slammed for his exclusion of Gambhir. Shikhar Dhawan was bowled for 1 by Matt Henry in the second over after India chose to bat after winning the toss on a fresh Eden Gardens wicket.

The fans have long waited for Gambhir to get his due, and Dhawan’s repeated failure is only adding fuel to the fire. With such loads of criticism, it now seems unlikely to see Dhawan play in the upcoming Test series.

Just one more failure and this time, it might be Dhawan’s struggling turn to make a comeback.

Why is Team India continuously persisting with Dhawan? And what will be the cost of it? A bit more play of the second Test can answer that.

But after today’s performance, even Kohli and the others from the team management cannot overlook Gambhir in the next Test.

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