The focus that is put on Shikhar Dhawan before every game in whites is simply unreal. To be fair and honest, not many cricketing pundits rated him as highly as the Indian team management. The India opener is often put under tremendous scrutiny while debating his position in Test cricket. The same was done before India’s 1st Test at Edgbaston in Birmingham against England in testing conditions.

Despite having slightly better numbers than his opening partner Murali Vijay, it is Dhawan, who often has to deal with the criticism. India have often failed to get off to flying starts overseas and their entire previous round of overseas tours was an example of that.

NUMBERS SPEAK:

Since 1st December 2013 (Before India’s previous round of overseas tours began in South Africa), on only four occasions, has the opening stand been 50 or greater.

Below, is the list of those stands of 50 or more for the first wicket:

  1. Dhawan, KL Rahul – 87 vs West Indies at Kingston – 2016
  2. Dhawan, M. Vijay – 56 vs Australia at Brisbane – 2014
  3. Dhawan, M. Vijay – 55 vs Australia at Melbourne – 2014
  4. Dhawan, M. Vijay – 50 vs England at Birmingham – 2018

In the four stands, one name stands out as common – Dhawan. Of course, the numbers aren’t good by any means as just four instances of a 50-plus opening stand across five completed Test tours, is shambolic to say the least.

Shikhar Dhawan
Shikhar Dhawan scored 26 in the first innings in Birmingham. Credits: AP

Nevertheless, the criticism which Dhawan comes under is often uncalled for and too harsh.

The message portrayed by the above four partnerships is quite clear indeed. Whenever, of the few rare occasions, when the Indian opening partnership has done well, he has been involved. One cannot take the credit away from Dhawan for that.

THE ISSUE:

The problem though with Dhawan, is that he is getting off to starts, but somehow not converting them into big scores. For instance, during the mentioned Test against Windies at Kingston, he looked all set for three figures, before throwing his wicket away for 84.

For the rest of the series then, Shikhar Dhawan looked off colour and eventually missed the game.

Shikhar Dhawan
Shikhar Dhawan continued to struggle. Image Credits Twitter

In Australia as well in 2014/15, he did all the hardwork, leaving balls outside off and curbing his instincts. Just when the time came to make the hardwork count, Dhawan just gifted his wicket away. 

In New Zealand though in 2014, he was simply terrific, playing the best knock of his career, in a 400-plus run chase at Auckland and scoring 115.

Today (August 2) at Birmingham against England in the 1st Test too, Shikhar Dhawan repeated the same mistake.

So much so, Curbing his aggressive instincts, he respected the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. He did effortlessly drive the balls which were meant to be and brought the 50 run stand with Vijay.

After battling for 46 deliveries against the venom of Broad and Anderson, Dhawan was guilty of undoing all the effort. Against a striding Sam Curran, who had just dismissed Vijay and Rahul off quick succession, Dhawan threw it away.

TECHNICAL FACTOR:

From the technique front, Dhawan got stuck to a delivery swinging away outside off. Rather than either getting fully towards the ball or just leaving it, the southpaw took a half measure.

Just poking to the outswinger, with minimal footwork, Dhawan gave a regulation catch at the first slip. Such one poor judgement ruins all the good work.

Shikhar Dhawan, 1st Test, England
Shikhar Dhawan famous for his pyrotechnics. Credits: Reuters.

WHAT NEXT?

The role of Dhawan in second innings will be priceless for India against England in the 1st Test.

Any target will be tricky and for India to have any chances of winning, Dhawan will have to do well. Given his talent, he surely has the ability to excel and people too shouldn’t write him off so easily.