Where does Shikhar Dhawan go from here?

Former India cricketers and ex-selectors - Anshuman Gaekwad and Saba Karim - back Dhawan and suggest that one good innings could help him turn things around ahead of the South Africa tour.

FILE PHOTO: Featuring for Delhi, the opening batter has had a forgettable outing so far in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, with just 26 runs in three games.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Shikhar Dhawan’s last international assignment was in July when he led the limited-overs side for a T20I and ODI series in Sri Lanka. Most of the senior players were engaged in a five-match Test series in England.  

Dhawan had a mixed outing, amassing 128 runs – including an unbeaten 86 – in the three ODIs. But managed just 86 in the three T20Is.  

Despite scoring 207 in eight innings during the second leg of the IPL for Delhi Capitals, Dhawan was not picked for the T20 World Cup and the T20I series against New Zealand, the selectors insisting that he was “rested”.  

Returning to action in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy, the Delhi batter is yet to hit his groove and has motley returns of 26 runs in three games. He was out for a duck in the opening fixture against Jharkhand and was dismissed for 12 in the next outing against Hyderabad in front of the national selection committee chairman Chetan Sharma and IPL scouts.  

On Saturday, against Uttar Pradesh, his woes continued, as he was trapped leg before by Mohsin Khan for 14 at the picturesque Sector 16 Stadium.  

His below-par performances have cast a doubt about his chances of making a comeback to the Indian ODI squad for the South Africa series. The team will play 3 ODI’s against the Proteas away from home.  

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Former India batter and erstwhile head coach Anshuman Gaekwad believes that a quality cricketer like Dhawan is ‘one good innings’ away from returning to form.  

“It all depends on how selectors look at it. I believe form can change but class remains, and batters like Shikhar need just one good inning to strike form. Sometimes, you have a bad patch and it has happened to the best of the players, including Sunil Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath. In that phase, no matter what you try, you just don’t get the result,” Gaekwad told Sportstar.  

“In such times, it is important to do some soul searching. You cannot exactly pinpoint what it is – whether it is mental, technical – and such things happen. You must hang in there and ensure that one innings comes soon. If need be, take a break and start afresh.”  

Elaborating on Dhawan’s role as a senior in the team, Gaekwad added: “He is not in best of forms, but then a big match player like him brings that experience in the batting department, which is very crucial in South African conditions. He could revolve the game around him and guide the youngster.”  

Gaekwad feels that IPL numbers and a few “poor” innings should not be taken too seriously.  

“IPL cannot be a base for Tests or even ODI cricket, because, in the end, they all are different formats. There have been a lot of players who were picked in the national side based on their IPL performances, and many have disappeared. You don’t see them in any forms of cricket now, not even in Ranji Trophy or Mushtaq Ali Trophy. So, you need that (temperament and mentality) in international cricket,” Gaekwad said.  

“I believe in horses for courses, but at the same time, you have to give importance to experience…And a player like Shikhar has that quality.” 

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Former wicketkeeper-batter and ex-national selector Saba Karim says the competition is intense with several youngsters vying for one slot. But he, too, believes it is important to persist with Dhawan ahead of the South Africa tour.  

“That’s what makes the draw more challenging and exciting. There have been phases in the past when Shikhar has been under pressure, but he has come out and has done quite well. Such healthy competitions should spur Shikhar to do well,” Karim said.  

Dhawan still has a few group games left with Delhi to strike form. “This is such a great occasion for him to strike form. Delhi still has two matches to go and if the team qualifies for the knockouts, he will get some more opportunities,” Karim said.   

Karim, who until last year was BCCI’s General Manager, Game Development, feels Dhawan “still has so much to offer” in ODIs.  

“With the kind of experience he has over the past several years and the kind of performances he has put in, he remains a reliable opener. To get that left-hand, right-hand combination, I would still back Shikhar,” Karim said.  

“At least for South Africa, I would keep him in the mix and see how it goes for the next couple of series.”  

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