Is Shikhar Dhawan Approaching the End of his International Career?
Dhawan’s average & SR vs pacers was the lowest in IPL 2020 as compared to Kohli, Rohit, Rahul, Kishan & Suryakumar.
Over the years, Shikhar Dhawan has been a regular name at the top of the order for India as far as white-ball cricket is considered. He has played 139 ODIs and 65 T20Is till date, amassing 5808 and 1673 runs at averages of 45.02 and 27.88 in the two formats respectively.
However, the end of the road looks quite near for Dhawan if the events that unfolded in the recently concluded T20I series between India and England were anything to go by.
The 35-year-old opened the innings for India, alongside KL Rahul, in the first T20I but he was found struggling a lot against England's fast bowlers — Jofra Archer and Mark Wood — as they turned the heat on with their pace and hard lengths. All Dhawan could contribute in that match was four runs, and that too after consuming 12 deliveries. As a consequence, he was dropped for the next match and Ishan Kishan was given a chance.
The youngster went on to grab the opportunity with both hands as he scored a fifty on debut. Suryakumar Yadav, another new face in the side, also made his chances count as he scored 57 and 32 in the two innings he batted in the series.
Kishan and Suryakumar's breathtaking arrival to the international stage has given India two more top-order options to consider for their white-ball squads. Moreover, Virat Kohli, who was adjudged the Player of the Series in the T20Is against England, and Rohit Sharma are still forces to reckon with. Even though Rahul's recent form hasn't been inspiring, he will always be a part of the squad considering what he can do.
With so many options available for the top three slots now, Dhawan looks surplus to India's requirements. Moreover, he has had his struggles with injuries of late and age isn't on his side either. Yes, he did look in prime form during IPL 2020 as he amassed 618 runs at an outstanding average and strike-rate of 44.14 and 144.73 respectively. However, if you dig deep it won't be that hard to find out how bad he struggled against high pace during the course of the tournament and that would cause his undoing in international cricket on most occasions.
Dhawan's average and strike-rate against fast bowlers were the lowest in IPL 2020 when compared to that of Kohli, Rohit, Rahul, Kishan and Suryakumar.
From the table above, it's clearly visible how Dhawan got dismissed frequently against high pace. Not only that, he also struggled to score at a healthy rate against them as his strike-rate of 112.2 suggests.
He wasn't always this bad against fast bowlers, though. Dhawan amassed 161 runs at a strike-rate of 147.7, without being dismissed even once, during IPL 2018 and 2019. So it sums up that his issue against fast bowling is more of a recent thing. That is understandable as reflexes start slowing up with age, and that might be the reason behind his failure against high pace of late.
Dhawan didn't have the best times in his recent domestic performances for Delhi, either. During the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he amassed just 105 runs in four innings — at an average of 26.25 and strike-rate of 129.62. There were four other players in Delhi's team itself, who recorded a better average and strike-rate than Dhawan after playing two or more matches.
He did score 203 runs at a good average of 40.60 and strike-rate of 104.63 in the five matches he played during the Vijay Hazare Trophy. However, 153 of those runs came in one innings and that means he scored just 50 runs in the other four. So he wasn't consistent in this tournament either.
But, irrespective of his recent struggles, Dhawan still has skipper Virat Kohli's confidence in his favour as far as playing in the ODI format is considered
“Shikhar and Rohit will definitely start. When it comes to one-day cricket, I don’t think there’s any issues or doubts over Rohit and Shikhar opening together. They’ve been amazing for us in the past few years, so we’re going to start with that,” Kohli said on the eve of the first ODI of the three-match series against England starting in Ahmedabad, on March 23.
However, the highlight of this statement from Kohli has to be the 'we're going to start with that' part.
The team management already showed in the T20I series that they are now looking to give opportunity to the young players who have done well in domestic cricket and in the IPL in recent times. So they won't hesitate to move on to the likes of Suryakumar and Kishan in case Dhawan doesn't do well in the ODIs.
Apart from the duo, India also have other youngsters like Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw and Devdutt Padikkal waiting for their opportunities. Gill has already impressed everyone with his performances at the Test level for India and Padikkal, who was the highest scorer for Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL 2020 and also for Karnataka in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy respectively, is one of the rising young stars as well.
Prithvi Shaw, who was dropped from the Indian side due to his poor form, has also announced his return to form with a stellar performance in the Vijay Hazare Trophy that concluded recently. His tally of 827 runs is the highest ever recorded in the history of the tournament and that sums up how much potential he has.
Moreover, all of these players are in their early 20s and that makes them the future of Indian cricket. Dhawan, on the other hand, is 35 years old and that means he has only a few years of international cricket left in him at best. He has played crucial roles for India in ICC tournaments over the years, though. The southpaw was the highest run-getter for India in the 2013 and 2017 Champions Trophy and also in the 2015 World Cup.
But, as the saying goes, every good thing comes to an end. And it looks like the end of Dhawan's stint at the international level will come sooner rather than later.
(Prasenjit Dey is a freelance cricket writer. He can be reached at @CricPrasen. The opinions expressed are the author’s own and The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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