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Is Shikhar Dhawan the Forgotten Man of Indian Cricket?

Shikhar Dhawan's form in 2021 Vijay Hazare Trophy has been poor & he's not been retained by Delhi Capitals either.

Updated
Cricket
5 min read
Is Shikhar Dhawan the Forgotten Man of Indian Cricket?
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The one big disappointment of this season’s Vijay Hazare Trophy has been just one and that is Shikhar Dhawan.

The veteran left-hander has scored just 56 runs in his five innings and has looked a shadow of his former self while playing this season. It could also be because he has hardly had any cricket to speak of since the conclusion of IPL 2021.

He was in patchy form before that, but after the IPL ended, Dhawan took a break during the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and his lack of game time has shown during the Vijay Hazare Trophy. To add insult to injury, Dhawan was also not retained by his IPL franchise Delhi Capitals.

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The franchise chose to go with the younger players, thereby leaving veterans like Dhawan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma in the cold. While the others are not completely out of the picture, in the case of Dhawan it is getting increasingly difficult for the ever-smiling batter.

In the age of younger and more exhilarating batters coming through the system, Dhawan is beginning to miss out big time. He is not even being considered when it comes to the T20 format. When the squad for the T20I series against New Zealand was chosen, Dhawan’s name did not even crop up. It was almost as if everyone had forgotten about him.

In fact when the squad for the T20 World Cup was chosen, chief selector Chetan Sharma claimed that Dhawan was being rested! The rest has gotten a bit long even by workload management standards. But no one has bothered to counter Sharma on what exactly is the plan around Dhawan’s future in cricket.

Dhawan has long been forgotten from the Test squad. When he last played Test cricket for India on the 2018 tour to England, he was already on course to become a forgotten man. He was on the sidelines, and soon after, Dhawan was ditched for younger guys like Lokesh Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill.

Of course, a series of injuries at the wrong times has not helped Dhawan’s career too.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Shikhar Dhawan has been in bad form in recent months.&nbsp;</p></div>

Shikhar Dhawan has been in bad form in recent months. 

Image: BCCI

The early part of Virat Kohli’s Test leadership was defined by the success of the openers Murali Vijay and Dhawan. But their exits in quick succession resulted in a vacuum at the top of the order, which has been filled only to an extent by the Indian think-tank.

Even in the T20I format, there had been a sense that Dhawan’s form is fine, but the rate at which he was scoring runs needed a step up. Dhawan was left out earlier this year from the playing XI against England in the T20I series. He did return to lead a weakened Indian side to Sri Lanka, but he has not come back into the frame for the T20 Internationals. Perhaps he knows that his time as a T20I and Test cricketer for India is over.

His best bet to stay in the frame with Indian cricket is probably with the ODI format. He scored runs against England earlier this year and then in Sri Lanka too. But the problem is that, surprisingly, India has been playing fewer ODIs in the last couple of years. It will come down even more in 2022 because the focus will be on the T20 World Cup.

The number of ODIs is likely to go up only in 2023 with all the focus around the 50-over World Cup scheduled to be held that year in India. Dhawan’s best bet is to keep scoring runs whenever he gets an opportunity to still stay in the frame for that 50-over 2023 World Cup.

But for that chance to come through, Dhawan needs to be picked by a franchise in the mega auction for the upcoming IPL seasons. Delhi may have offloaded Dhawan, but there are some other franchises who can definitely do with Dhawan’s experience and expertise at the top of the order.

There are going to be fewer and fewer opportunities for Dhawan to score runs because he may not necessarily be featuring in the longer version any more for Delhi. So he needs all the opportunities that comes his way to score runs in the IPL. With younger talent coming through, though, the pressure on Dhawan is immense.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Rahul Dravid and Shikhar Dhawan in discussion in Colombo.</p></div>

Rahul Dravid and Shikhar Dhawan in discussion in Colombo.

(Photo: PTI)

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The franchises can still look at Dhawan as an option at the top of the order, because he has invaluable experience. He has been a regular for the past decade in the IPL. He has played for various franchises in the IPL including the now defunct Deccan Chargers, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Delhi Capitals and Mumbai Indians.

So Dhawan has extensive knowledge of the toughest league in the world and can certainly help the younger lot of players coming through with his experience.

You could see that during his time with Delhi Capitals that he would score runs by the dozen not at the rate you would like. But Dhawan would manage to keep his franchise in the running and then with a smile on his face, he would man the boundary line. He had no ego hassles in being led by younger men like Shreyas Iyer or Rishabh Pant.

That is the best part of Dhawan’s career that he has managed to stay afloat even when those around him faltered and or have disappeared from the scene. Dhawan is still a relevant force, especially in the ODI format where he has an impeccable record.

He is a leader in his own right, even though he may not have the captain’s badge. He has led various sides including India and some IPL sides, and Dhawan has been part of the 'leadership group' even when not captain. It would therefore be a surprise if Dhawan does not find a major taker at the mega auction scheduled to be held shortly.

Dhawan likes to be someone who does not get into a scrap with anyone unless of course it is Shane Watson. But he generally keeps a low profile and perhaps because of this makes it easy for everyone to forget him.

But we should not forget that to push for Dhawan’s Test debut back in 2012-13, then chief selector Sandeep Patil literally fought with his panel. The others appeared to be a bit reluctant, but Patil was adamant and the result was for everyone to see. A blistering 190 on Test debut, a knock that everyone remembers till date.

And to imagine Dhawan replaced another dasher, the experienced Virender Sehwag. It required some conviction and belief on the part of Patil in Dhawan.

The question is eight years on, does anyone else today have the same belief and conviction in him?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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