Everything about Rishi Dhawan on the field spells utility. Only, that isn’t what the Indian team is looking for right now. Actually, they aren’t looking for those qualities in him.
With the likes of Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav and more recently Shivam Dube, filing into the side to plug that ‘all-rounder’ hole, Dhawan’s resume is gathering dust in the drawers. It’s the one which has on it 76 first-class games, 3588 runs and 297 wickets for Himachal Pradesh. Impressive but evidently not enough, not even for the India A side.
It wasn’t as grey for Dhawan back in 2016 when India, still on their quest for all-rounders, played him in three one-day internationals against Australia. He got to bat twice and he remained unbeaten in one of those games. His 25 overs went for plenty. 160 runs, to be precise.
It was a horrid start but then again, few have had the luxury of a cosy beginning. Six months later, he was part of India’s T20I squad to Zimbabwe. He donned blue in the first game of the series, a game which saw KL Rahul, Mandeep Singh, Jaydev Unadkat and Yuzvendra Chahal make their shortest-format debuts. That was the last time he was part of the Indian dressing room.
“I have done enough in my first-class career to earn a place (in the Indian team),” says Dhawan after his man of the match performance for HP in their drawn encounter against Karnataka in Mysuru. “Last year, I was the highest scorer for HP and I took close to 20 wickets. I have done well in limited-over cricket too. I am more ready now because when I played international cricket, I didn’t know how to go about it and I was sent back before I could get a hang of it. I am ready now.”
While Dhawan’s numbers have been impressive since his first-class debut in 2009, he didn’t have a particularly good limited-over season this time around with a passable show in both the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (7 matches, 91 runs, 8 wickets) and Vijay Hazare Trophy (7 matches, 128 runs, 7 wickets). Once, however, the format entered the four-day phase, he kicked into new gear. He was good in the opener against Saurashtra but he was better against Tamil Nadu as his side pulled off an unlikely victory.
His true value to a side, and a reflection of his learnings since 2016, were evident in the game against Karnataka. He scored 93 and picked up eight wickets, including a fifer in the second innings.
“I should have played more India A tours, Duleep Trophy and Deodhar Trophy matches. Once you have played at the international level, you should get opportunities to perform at a higher level. After the Zimbabwe game, I don’t think I have played any high-level cricket. I think I should have played a series or two more to make my mark.”
Speaking of the Zimbabwe game, he came on to bat with three balls left in the game. A second-string India, in pursuit of Zimbabwe’s 171, needed six runs from three balls with MS Dhoni and Dhawan at the crease. Neville Madziva yorked the debutant first up and then Dhawan ran one down to third man for a single. Four runs needed from one ball with Dhoni on strike. India lost the game by two runs.
It must be noted that Dhawan had conceded 42 runs in four overs for one wicket, and he still was only the second-most expensive bowler on the card.
“I don’t think that’s the point,” he says when asked if that game had a part to play in him being ignored subsequently. “I only played two balls that day. It happens. You never know the first two balls, that’s always the problem when you’re batting at No.7 and No.8, you can either finish the game or it falls on you when you don’t finish it.”
You could say that again.