Time running out for Dhawan

Cricket Tri-series: Opener needs to strike form soon

Time running out for Dhawan

Shikhar Dhawan sits on a pile of one-day international failures accumulated over the last four overseas tours, including the ongoing one in Australia, and yet there is a compelling case to argue in favour of the opener.

The knives are out for Dhawan, who had been dismissed for two against Australia in the tri-series opener in Melbourne, picked up another low score against England in Brisbane on Tuesday. The southpaw has lasted just nine balls over the course of the two one-dayers and his early dismissals have been forcing India to go into early retreat, denying them the crucial starts.

Save the Champions Trophy in England in 2013, Dhawan’s struggles away from home are as regular a feature as India’s defeats on the road. While it’s harsh to put all of India’s losses down to his poor run, the two occurrences aren’t totally mutually exclusive either.

Traditionally, India are a side that are heavily dependent on good starts, especially when they play away from home. The lateral movement of the ball and the extra bounce on pitches outside the sub-continent make it essential for openers to blunt the new ball. Dhawan and Rohit Sharma did this job with aplomb in England in the Champions Trophy and a lot of credit for India’s triumphant campaign in the biennial tournament should go to these two openers.

Since then, Dhawan and Rohit have managed a bucketful of runs at home but have failed miserably in replicating the same effort in away matches. Rohit secured his place at the top with a confident century against Australia on Sunday but Dhawan’s position is increasingly becoming untenable because of his prolonged lean patch.

On his trips to South Africa and New Zealand, the Delhi batsman scored at an average of six and 20.25 respectively while in Australia, where he has played two ODIs on this tour, his mean score is 1.50.

In West Indies too, he averages an unimpressive 22.66 and among the top countries, only in England has he found ways to gather runs in heaps -- his average of 74 runs per innings in Old Blighty being the lone bright spot although in his last visit to the country, he could only manage scores of 11, 16, 97 n.o. and 31.   

There is no doubt that the swinging ball has definitely troubled him and there has been a certain pattern to his dismissals in the last two ODIs -- Mitchell Starc nailed him with an outswinger, as did James Anderson. In the preceding Test series, he often threw away starts slashing at away going deliveries.

Pressure to score runs or a genuine technical glitch or both… Whatever it is, it’s a headache India and Dhawan would like to get rid of as quickly as possible. India’s predicament is that having picked him for the World Cup, they can’t replace him unless he is injured, so they have little choice but to trust Dhawan to fight his way out of this slump. And it’s not a case of being extra generous to him.

Before he set feet in Australia, Dhawan had three substantial scores – 113, 79 and 91 against Sri Laknka at home. While the batsman has endured a bad tour Down Under, it hides the fact that he has carried good one-day form into the tri-series, as is the case with Rohit who too had poor Test outings but strengthened his ODI spot with a century against Australia. 

“It’s difficult for me to think about how much pressure he will be under but whenever the guys step out of the subcontinent, they want to score,” said MS Dhoni when asked if Dhawan was under pressure. “Because of that they put in a lot more effort. When you put in a lot more effort it actually drains you out.

You need a bit of time off and actually at times when you have a string of games when you are not scoring at times, it is best to just go out and express yourself. That’s something that Adam Gilchrist used to do very well.

When he was slightly out of form, he used to play his shots but when he was out of form he used to play his shots right from the very first ball. Often that helps,” Dhoni reasoned, suggesting a possible way out for Dhawan.Maybe Dhawan should heed skipper’s advice to get back to his scoring ways.

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