Shikhar Dhawan deserves a second wind

Shikhar Dhawan deserves a second wind

Dhawan will be keen to win his place back in the ODI team as he is set to open the innings with Rohit Sharma in the Champions Trophy in England.

Shikhar Dhawan
India’s Shikhar Dhawan. (Photo by MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images)

After been sidelined from the Indian team for a brief while, Shikhar Dhawan made a comeback to the ODI fold as he is selected to fly to England for India’s title defence of the Champions Trophy. It was the very same tournament where Dhawan cemented his position in the team. Making a comeback to the ODI team at that time as well, Dhawan scored back-to-back hundreds in his first two games which led India to memorable wins against South Africa and West Indies. His tally of 363 runs in 5 matches at an average of 90.75 was instrumental in India’s triumph in 2013.

Since then Dhawan was a regular feature across formats. The 31-year-old was sidelined in 2016 since the advent of KL Rahul. The left-hander’s technique has always been a subject of discussion which led him to lose his spot from the Test team. Out of the 13 home Tests this season, Dhawan featured in just one Test against New Zealand where he could manage just 18 runs in two innings.

In the nick of time, he lost his place in the ODI format as well. He has played just two games between January 2016 and January 2017. His limited appearances in the ODIs were largely due to his ill-timed injury which gave Rahul the opportunity to showcase his talents. Now with Rahul out injured, Dhawan has got an opportunity to resurrect his international career.

To be fair to Dhawan, he deserved this chance. His ODI numbers accentuate how big an impact he has made for India at the top of the order. His tally of 3090 runs in 75 innings at an average of 42.91 and strike rate of 90 proves his mettle as an ODI batsman. Prior to losing his spot from the ODI set-up, Dhawan was making runs consistently. In his last 5 ODI innings for India, Dhawan has scored 284 runs at 56.80 which include a century and two half-centuries.

Despite his good showings, he lost his place in the side which emphasises the level of competition in the Indian team. The left-hander went back to first-class cricket to prove his form and fitness. While he had regained his fitness, but those flamboyant drives and cuts were on display very far and few. Maybe playing in an empty stadium with a handful of people in the stands was a factor for Dhawan. You seem to not feel motivated to perform at the domestic level when you have done so well on the international circuit.

Dhawan turned out for Delhi in the 4-day games but could collect just 125 runs in 5 innings with the best score of 49. He was then picked to play the Inter-Zonal Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy where his performances were again, ordinary. In 4 innings, the stylish opener could manage to get just 110 runs at a strike rate of 111.11. He played a good knock of 50 in one of those innings which proved that all is not lost for the Delhi dasher.

He was in good nick but was finding ways of getting out. The Vijay Hazare Trophy arrived and 5 games for Dhawan were less fruitful as he could manage just 99 runs from 5 games.

After such performances at the domestic level, one could see the palpable concern on Dhawan’s face. With the IPL around the corner, the opener would have liked to be in a better form for he knew that he would be closely watched by the India selectors. The IPL was a stepping stone for a possible comeback into the Indian team as far as Dhawan was concerned. Though the selectors have deined considering performances in the T20 league for team selection, it definitely gave them an idea about his current form.

Opening the innings with Warner gave him just that little bit of cushion to take his time early on. He started the campaign with a solid knock of 40 in Sunrisers’ win against RCB in their first game of the season. He built on a good start and focused on remaining consistent as he has been dismissed just once in the single-digits in 12 innings this year.

Dhawan has recorded 3 half-centuries this year. He has been crucial to the defending champion’s plans as he has displayed a rich vein of form right from the start of the tournament. After 12 games, Dhawan has 450 runs to his name at 40.90 and a strike rate of 127.84. He has been fluent, especially in the latter half of the tournament.

After earning a ticket to England, Dhawan celebrated his international comeback with an unbeaten 62 which helped SRH maul Mumbai Indians by 7 wickets with 10 balls to spare. He was decisive in his footwork and attacked the loose balls before making a conscious effort of staying unbeaten towards the end of the chase.

Between the Champions Trophy of 2013 and 2017, life has come full circle for Shikhar Dhawan. He has seen both sides of the coins in these four years and has an opportunity to do it all over again.