Going into the Brisbane Test, opener Shikhar Dhawan was under extreme pressure to retain his place in the side. He had failed in the first Test at Adelaide as well as the first innings of the second Test. This was preceded by the string of poor scores in England, where he was dropped after failing to register a single fifty in six innings. He did come up with a terrific 81 in the second innings at Gabba, which was India’s only silver lining in an otherwise disappointing performance. But, the question still remains, is the knock good enough for Dhawan to retain his place at the top of the order?
As per cricketing logic, Dhawan’s 81 should be enough for him to be given another chance to elongate his Test career. After all, he looked in fluent touch during his stay at the crease, and looked in no trouble at all until he played a cheeky shot to miss out on a century. But, it must be remembered that Dhawan did not resume his innings when play began on Saturday. This was because he had hurt himself while batting in the net prior to the start of the day’s play. While the opener did not look in any sort of trouble out in the middle, MS Dhoni made a huge deal out of the injury to Dhawan.
In hindsight, Dhawan should have resumed the innings being the overnight batsman. Yes, he may have been injured, but he should have braved some pain, and have come out to open the batting at the start of play along with Cheteshwar Pujara. He did come out 30-40 minutes later, and the injury couldn’t have worsened or improved during that duration. All that could have happened was that the pitch would have improved for batsmen, and that is exactly what transpired. Dhawan took the easy way out, and found some much-needed rhythm.
As an opener, Dhawan’s job is to deal with the fresh challenge on a new day. Being the overnight batsman, he should have gone out and taken the bowlers head-on. Instead, he exposed Virat Kohli and co to the upbeat Aussie bowlers, and the middle and lower order clearly looked clueless out in the middle. By the time Dhawan came out to bat, the match was well and truly out of India’s grasp. As such, there was not much pressure on the left-hander since he knew that there was nothing much to achieve. Aided with better conditions to bat on, he flourished.
If you take out the 81 from Dhawan’s recent scores, it still points out to some disappointing numbers. Since the 115 and 98 in New Zealand, he has scores of 12, 29, 7, 31, 6 and 37 in the three Tests in England. In Australia, his scores so far have been 25, 9 and 24 apart from the latest fifty. Going back to last year, apart from his debut 187, he made only 23 and 33 against the Windies at home in two Tests; 13, 15, 29 and 19 in South Africa. Enough to raise the query, does Dhawan deserve to carry on?
--By A Cricket Analyst