It’s not a nice feeling for any senior player to feel sidelined or meet with freak injuries. Shikhar Dhawan, the captain of India for the limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka, has been through the emotions. But this is his chance to cement his spot for the T20 World Cup in October as the slot for the second opener heats up with youngsters possessing solid strike rates lurking around.
The 35-year-old left-hander, a prolific scorer in ICC tournaments, missed out on the larger part of the ODI World Cup in 2019 due to a thumb injury. And he will be keen on winning one Cup before the time is up.
Among the touring cricketers, Dhawan has the best record against the islanders in T20Is – 289 runs at an average of 41.28. Virat Kohli and K. L. Rahul — both in England at present — have scored 339 and 295 runs, respectively.
Going by statistical analysis — with at least five games against the opponent — Dhawan has the best average against the islanders. In Sri Lanka, he averages 39.60 — more than most of the countries he has toured in the 10-year-career.
There will be competition from Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Rahul, and Mayank Agarwal (also in England now), but Dhawan has been working on his weak areas. He has really expanded his leg-side game.
Since 2016, Dhawan has smashed 400+ runs in the IPL but he converted that to 500+ after joining Delhi Capitals. He became a giant in the last 25-odd games for the Capitals by smashing 998 runs.
Ticking all the boxes
Should the selectors look at Dhawan as Rohit Sharma’s opening partner in the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman? Ajay Ratra, former India wicketkeeper-batsman and the assistant coach of the Capitals in the IPL, feels Dhawan ticks all the boxes as he never stops learning. Like a modern-day cricketer, even he wants to play 360-degree shots.
“During the preparations for IPL 2021, he ensured he went that extra mile to prepare. Though he is a senior player, he is always looking to improve the game. He was trying to play the scoop shot in the throwdowns. He knows how important it is in shorter formats. He is looking to get better in every aspect,” Ratra said in a chat with Sportstar on Friday.
The opening camaraderie
Even in Sri Lanka, Dhawan will be opening with his IPL partner, Shaw. The duo complemented each other beautifully in the Capitals and even added a record 138-run partnership against Chennai Super Kings earlier this year. “Shikhar is still the highest-scorer in this IPL with 380 runs. He also got a 98 against England in the ODI series. He was in good form before the unprecedented break.
“The left-right combination is always good. Whenever Prithvi was striking the ball better, Shikhar gave him the strike. Prithvi’s role was to cash in on the powerplay, so Shikhar stretched his innings. That was the best part about their partnership,” added Ratra.
The three T20Is, right after the ODIs, will be the last set of games before the World Cup.
Shikhar Dhawan in T20I numbers
- T20Is: 65
- Runs: 1,673
- Hs: 92
- Average: 27.88
- Strike-rate: 127.41
- 50s: 11
T20Is in Sri Lanka
- Matches: 5
- Runs: 198
- HS: 90
- Average: 39.60
- Strike-rate: 145.58
- 50s: 2