Shikhar Dhawan’s patchy form posing difficult questions for India

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It might not be panic stations yet, but with the World Cup in under three months’ time, the Indian team management will be twitchy over Shikhar Dhawan’s form.
Since the Asia Cup in the UAE, where he cracked a chart-topping 342 runs in five innings at an average of 68.40 and strike rate of 102.08, Dhawan has managed a mere 376 runs in 15 innings at an average of 26.85.
During this period, he has moved to double-digit scores ten times, but has passed fifty only twice – both half-centuries coming on the relatively flatter tracks in New Zealand.
In the home series against West Indies late last year, Dhawan was rushed by the hit-the-deck bustle of Oshane Thomas, who kept scything through his defences. In New Zealand, Lockie Ferguson also took him down with a scorching 151kph yorker while Trent Boult swung him out on lively pitches.
Ashley Nurse, the offspinner, had also troubled Dhawan by cramping him for room, and restricted him to 13 off 14 balls while claiming his wicket twice.
pIn the second ODI against Australia in Nagpur, Dhawan had another start after seeing off the early swing generated by Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile. Anything that was full and on the pads was nonchalantly put away through the leg side. Aaron Finch then experimented by drafting in Glenn Maxwell as the first change ahead of the frontline spinners Nathan Lyon and Adam Zampa.
Maxwell fired one dart after another at Dhawan’s pads and cut off the opener’s happy space: the arc between backward point and cover. He eventually nipped out Dhawan with a slider from around the wicket that coaxed the batsman into attempting a pull when it wasn’t quite short enough. Gone for 21 off 29 balls. Another start not converted.
The opponents have been paying attention to Dhawan’s weakness and are gradually taking advantage of it. Incidentally, according to CrivViz, in the past year, Dhawan has averaged just 20 against offspinners – his lowest against any type of bowling in ODIs.
India’s openers, meanwhile, average only 33 this year – in comparison to 40-plus averages in the past five years – and Dhawan’s lean patch has somewhat contributed to the dip.
With India just three ODIs away from the World Cup and KL Rahul breathing down his neck, Dhawan can’t afford to prolong this run. On the eve of the ODI series opener, Virat Kohli was particularly enthused about Rahul, saying his exquisite strokeplay had strengthened his case for the World Cup.
Rahul likes the new ball coming on to the bat, but isn’t as fluent against the old one, so you can’t quite fit him into the middle order, which has also wobbled recently.

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