Should India look beyond Shikhar Dhawan in the T20 format?
In the last couple of years, the performance of Team India especially in Tests and ODIs has been nothing short of phenomenal. However, when it comes to the shortest format of the game, the Men in Blue haven’t been at their peak.
Their inability to set big totals while batting first has haunted them, and the conundrum surrounding some of the spots have intensified after their indifferent performances of late.
With the T20 World Cup slated to be played in Australia next year, some of the premier positions in the line-up need a recheck. The opening position is one of those, and it will be interesting to see how long the team management backs Shikhar Dhawan.
The southpaw hasn’t produced too many match-winning performances lately and the management would need to rethink whether it is time to give a long run to KL Rahul at the top of the order along with Rohit Sharma.
The numbers suggest that Rahul has a better chance of giving India a good start in the shortest format than Dhawan. The latter's lack of intent has been questioned time and again, and it was visible in the first two matches against Bangladesh too.
The southpaw scored 41 off 42 deliveries in the opening clash and was dismissed at a time when he needed to kick on. It was a similar case in the second clash, but the power-packed performance of Rohit overshadowed his dodgy knock.
Shikhar Dhawan vs KL Rahul comparison in T20I cricket
Dhawan has a decent record in the shortest format of the game. In 57 T20Is so far, he has scored 1485 runs at an average of 28.01 with 9 fifties to his name. However, his impact in victories hasn’t been great.
The southpaw had a horrendous Caribbean tour where he managed to score just 27 runs in 3 matches. He did score a 40 and a 36 against South Africa in the two-match series, but his innings lacked match-winning impact.
Dhawan has a 'safe' record in this format and that might be the reason why India is not yet ready yet to look beyond him. The conservative approach of Dhawan in the recent past has not only come under scrutiny but has also made a case for Rahul to be included in the playing XI as an opener.
Dhawan has scored 501 runs in his last 17 T20Is but none of his innings have changed the course of the match. The Men in Blue are a strong chasing team but Dhawan’s lack of intent could well cost them in the mega event next year.
On the flip side, what works for Dhawan is his record Down Under, where the T20 World Cup will be held next year. In 6 T20Is in Australia, the left-hander has scored 190 runs at an average of 38 and a staggering strike rate of 168.14.
Meanwhile Rahul, stylish right-hander, has a pretty impressive record in the shortest format of the game. He has scored 922 runs in T20Is at an average of 41.91 and a strike rate of 145.2 with two centuries and five half-centuries to his name.
Rahul has got the opportunity to open the batting for India on just 14 occasions but has made a strong statement in his limited chances, with 535 runs at an average of 41.
The main difference between the two is their approach, especially at the start of the innings. While Rahul starts looking for boundaries from the word go, Dhawan tends to take his time. Despite playing in Dhawan’s shadow for the majority of his career, Rahul has definitely made a claim to play in the XI as the preferred opener.
Over the last one year the numbers of Dhawan and Rahul have been more or less similar, which is why the need arises to take into account their performance in the Indian Premier League.
There is a massive difference between the number of matches these two have played in the IPL, but there is no doubt that Rahul has performed better.
Dhawan has played 159 matches so far representing several franchises in the process. He has scored 4578 runs at an average of 33 and a strike rate of 124.
In contrast, Rahul has played only 67 matches but has scored 1977 runs at an average of 42 and an impressive strike rate of 138. He also holds the record for the fastest fifty in the tournament - a feat he achieved when he reached the landmark in 14 deliveries back in 2018.
The 2020 edition of the IPL will likely serve as an audition for the T20 World Cup. If Rahul continues to outperform Dhawan, it may be a sign that India need to start looking beyond the southpaw in T20 cricket.