English puzzle for struggling Dhawan

The opener is not a man to lose sleep over being dropped for one Test match, yet he must wonder what the future holds for him.

‘To play one Test and then be dropped and come back into the squad’ is not easy on Dhawan (in picture), acknowledges Sourav Ganguly.   -  AP

As India took the field on the third day of the Lord's Test in bright sunshine, Shikhar Dhawan was on his own at the Nursery ground, taking throws-down in the nets. He was out there at lunch again, facing Arjun Tendulkar's left-arm medium while patrons picnicked on the grass in the far corner.

Dhawan is not a man to lose sleep over being dropped for one Test match, yet he must wonder what the future holds for him. He was left out after the first Test in South Africa earlier this year, failed to score a run in the tour game against Essex last month, and did not impress anyone with his performance at Edgbaston. Dhawan was out trying to play a rasping drive through the off-side both times. It is bad enough being dismissed like that once; to do so in the second innings after being punished for it in the first is inexcusable.

Dhawan is a fine limited-overs batsman but it is difficult to be convinced that he is the right man to open for India in a Test-match in England. He struggled here four years ago — although he wasn't the only one, he does not appear to have learnt from his experience.

Read - Rahane: 'Acceptance is key when you play in England'

Dhawan was the wrong choice of opener to begin with and it was right to have promoted K. L. Rahul and restored Cheteshwar Pujara to the side. But it is worth wondering what Virat Kohli gleaned from Dhawan's display in Birmingham that he did not know already. Why select him in the first place? And why drop him after two innings?

‘Not easy’

"You'll have to ask them (the selectors) that," says Sourav Ganguly. "It's important to look for players who'll play well in tougher conditions. He (Dhawan) has struggled, hasn't he? It's not easy for him also. To play one Test and then be dropped and come back into the squad. That's the challenge in sport, isn't it?"

Kohli has not had to worry about the other opener for some time now. This year, however, Murali Vijay's efforts have been disappointing. Ignoring the Afghanistan Test, Vijay averages near 14 in 2018, with a top score of 46. It is a bit of a headache for Kohli for the 34-year-old has been a reassuring presence at the top of the order. Vijay was India's leading scorer in England four years ago and a great deal depends on him. The team needs his confidence at one end of the pitch while Rahul finds his feet at the other.

There's no question of looking for a replacement for Vijay, feels Ganguly. "He'll be fine. You can't just drop and chop like this. I'm sure he'll get runs," he says.

Then there's the question of Rahul. The Karnataka batsman has not scored a Test hundred in 20 months but India needs to persist with him. He was in excellent form in the home series against Australia and the decision to leave him out of the side in Cape Town was not a wise one. This is his first tour of England and he will improve. India needs a stable, reliable opening pair, two batsmen at ease and in control at the wicket. This series could be a long one otherwise.