Why Shikhar Dhawan needs to perform now to retain his place in the team
It was March 2013, and Australia was touring India for a 4-Test series. Having won the first two Test matches, India was on a high, but the long-lasting dashing opener Virender Sehwag was fading with each game. He could not manage big scores in the first two Tests which meant that he was dropped from the side in the middle of the series.
Sehwag’s departure gave an opportunity to the then 28-year-old Shikhar Dhawan to make his Test debut, and what use did he make of the opportunity!
He made the best possible start that one could ever hope for. He scored 187 runs off 174 balls which is the record for the fastest century on debut. Fans believed that India had discovered an ideal replacement for Sehwag.
India clinched the series 4-0.
He continued on his merry way in the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy as well. He scored back to back centuries against South Africa and West Indies and also scored a half century in the semi-final against Sri Lanka.
He ended up as the leading run-scorer in the tournament with 363 runs in 5 matches at an average of 90.75. He was adjudged the Player of the Tournament and he won the Golden Bat award as well.
Everything was going well until poor form struck him. India had a long season of away tours including tours to South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia. He was surely going to be tested under the testing conditions.
Dip in form overseas
Except for the Test matches in New Zealand where he got scores of 115 and 98, his performances in all the other tours were well under par. He could not adapt to the pace and bounce in South Africa and Australia and to the swinging ball in England.
His early success in International Cricket has kept his records in good shape. He has an average of 40.87 in tests and 42.42 in ODIs. He has 8 ODI hundreds to his name and he is currently ranked 7 in the ICC ODI batsmen rankings.
But the biggest issue has been his inconsistency. He scores a century and then goes for a quiet run for some time. This has been a trend in his form for quite some time now.
His form recently has taken a massive dip. In the recently concluded South Africa’s tour of India, Dhawan went through a horrible run.
In the 2 T20 innings, he managed 18 runs. In 5 ODI innings, he scored 126 runs at an average of 25.2. But the worst was to follow. In 6 innings of 4 Test matches he could score only 150 runs at an average of 25 with 45* being his highest score. His inability to play a patient game was certainly exposed.
His weakness against the short ball is quite evident. He gets into awkward positions while attempting to play the pull or the hook shots.
A look at the future
The short ball bowled by Josh Hazlewood in the first ODI against Australia in Perth of the 2016 VB Series got the better of him and he was dismissed for just 9 runs. The similar type of delivery has accounted for his wickets several times.
With the ICC World T20 just around the corner, selectors would keep an eye on his performances. India will play 5 ODIs and 3 T20s down under followed by the Asia Cup which will be played as a T20 tournament for the first time. So it is high time for Dhawan to put his hand up and come up with decent performances to keep his place in the squad.
If he does not perform well in the near future, the selectors could well turn to Ajinkya Rahane to open the innings alongside Rohit Sharma. Rahane has opened the innings in the past and with the dedication that he has, he will be more than happy to play the opener’s role for the team.
So, a lot of thinking for Dhawan is indeed required. Selectors have shown a lot of faith in him and given him numerous chances. It is time that he starts to prove that he is capable of scoring runs consistently.