India sweats over Shikhar Dhawan’s fitness

Shikhar Dhawan injured his left thumb early in his innings against Australia on Sunday. He went on to make 117.

Shikhar Dhawan being treated by Indian team's physio Patrick Farfart after being hit on his left thumb by a lifter from Pat Cummins during the match against Australia at The Oval.   -  AFP

It rained all night here and as Tuesday dawned moist and cold, the water dripped off tiled roofs, window panes, park benches, garden roses, branches and leaves. Rivulets slithered on the roads while denizens of this town famous for its Robin Hood tales, clutched their all-weather jackets and walked. There was an acoustic symphony to the pitter-patter and the temperature wavered between seven and 10 degree celsius.

With India and New Zealand scheduled to clash in a World Cup game at Trent Bridge here on Thursday, the damp climate affected the practice stints of both squads. India cancelled its session while New Zealand retreated into the indoor facility for a hit. And as room heaters in the adjoining apartments went on over-drive, news began to trickle in from sources stating that Shikhar Dhawan had suffered a suspected hair-line fracture on his left thumb.

Speculation raged around whether a replacement would be sought and Rishabh Pant’s name was propped up. But there was no clarification from the team-management until much later in the evening when the media manager Moulin Parikh texted a message in the BCCI’s media WhatsApp group: “Shikhar Dhawan will be under observation.” After a while, he added that “the team management has decided that Mr. Dhawan will continue to be in England and his progress will be monitored. Mr. Dhawan sustained an injury on the back of his left hand in the region between the index finger and thumb.”

It may be recalled that the opener was struck on his hands by a delivery from Pat Cummins, during the early part of his 117 in the World Cup game against Australia at the Oval on Sunday. The southpaw, however, swallowed a pill, applied some pain-relief spray and soldiered on till he was dismissed in the 37th over.

Read: Who could replace the injured Dhawan?

Subsequently he did not turn up to field while Aaron Finch’s men launched their chase. Television cameras showed Dhawan sitting inside the dressing room, with an ice-pack around his bruised thumb. Later Virat Kohli was asked about Dhawan’s injury and the skipper replied: “I am not too sure at the moment. Patrick (Farhat, the physio) is in control of the situation. He will give us an update.”

If Dhawan’s injury is indeed of a grave nature, Kohli and the management will have to tweak the playing eleven. A straight-forward swap would be for K.L. Rahul, traditionally an opener, to be promoted up the order. But the solidity and weight of accumulated runs (4681 at an average of 45.89) that Dhawan and Rohit Sharma bring to the table, would be missed. Add to it their left-right combination which forces bowlers to constantly alter their lines.   

Presuming Rahul moves to the top, it opens a middle-order slot that could either feature Dinesh Karthik or Vijay Shankar. Thankfully for India, all its batsmen flourished against Australia. I got runs, Hardik (Pandya) played outstandingly well, M.S. (Dhoni) played his role perfectly, K.L. (Rahul) struck the ball so beautifully. So from that point of view, I think we played a really good one-day game, something that any team would want to do,” Kohli had said after the 36-run triumph over the Aussies.

Meanwhile, eyes will be peering at the skies as wet weather has affected three contests so far in these early days of the World Cup. The forecast for Thursday states: “Light rain showers and a moderate breeze.” However, more than the atmospheric patterns, Dhawan’s fitness or the lack of it, will be the bigger worry for Kohli and company.