Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The big question: To drop or not to drop Shikhar Dhawan?............

Even as India opener stumbles from one bad innings to the other, experts opine that it is time to back the batsman and help him get back into groove before World Cup
The look said it all. Shikhar Dhawan's expressionless face cut a sorry figure after he edged James Anderson into Jos Buttler's gloves in Brisbane on Tuesday after scoring just one run. The dismissal probably created doubts in his mind whether he would be playing in India's next match, on Republic Day, against Australia in Sydney.
If the India opener did nurture such a doubt, he is not alone. He has got countless cricket fans thinking along those lines. Especially, after the in-form Murali Vijay was not named in the World Cup squad.
Since setting foot on Australian soil, Dhawan's highest has been the only half-century – 81– in the second innings during the defeat in second Test in Brisbane. In nine other innings, including the two in the tri-series, his highest is 28 he scored in the first innings of the third Test in Melbourne before he was dropped for the fourth and final Test in Sydney. Add scores of 10 and 0 from the two warm-up matches before the Tests and you know Dhawan is clearly low on confidence.
It is established that Dhawan, when on song, can be at his aggressive best. He is also one whose batting style is better suited for the limited-overs format than the longer version, an average of 43.60 in ODIs as against 35.78 in Tests only seconds that.
Also as he continues to fail, how long should the Indian think-tank persist with the Delhi left-hander who is wondering where his next run will come from? To get back to form and be in a positive frame of mind, Dhawan knows that there are a minimum of two innings, and three if India qualify for the final in the tri-series and a further two in the World Cup warm-ups against Australia and Afghanistan (on February 8 and 10 at Adelaide) before MS Dhoni and Co. get ready to defend their title from February 15.
If the current tri-series is any indication, India do not need any player who is low on confidence going into the World Cup. Experts, however, opine that India should persist with Dhawan. They believe that in the team it is all about each one backing the other and having the belief that a player will get over a rough patch at the earliest. Dhawan should draw positives from that and play his natural game rather than worry about how to get the runs.
Vijay Dahiya, former India wicketkeeper and coach of Delhi Ranji team, said he felt that Dhawan was playing like a "millionaire".
"At times, if you are not amongst runs, normally, the first thought would be to spend some time in the middle, see off the difficult phase and get some runs," Dahiya said. "But the way Shikhar is going, it is like, 'I am going to get out of this with the same sort of mindset'. The standard he is setting for himself is still high.
"I always believe that when you are not amongst the runs, the goal should come down. You need to get 40s and 50s, get some sort of a start, get those runs and then raise the bar from there. He is playing in the same way, like a millionaire. He needs to be a daily wages sort of worker to get some confidence back."
Dahiya, who has followed Dhawan's growth as a cricketer, said that the southpaw's failures were more mental than technical.
"It is the choice of shots you are making. Your technique does not go anywhere in 5-6 innings. It is the mental thing and the shots you are picking up to play. They are not there to be played right at the start of the innings. If you are flashing at a ball that is at the fifth, sixth or seventh stump, then that is a problem with the mindset," he said.
While calls for dropping Dhawan from the team is rising by the day as his dry run continues, precious little can be done about that. Dhawan figures in the World Cup squad and cannot be replaced at this moment. At the same time, time is running out.
Dahiya added: "This Indian team management gives batsmen out of form a longer run and they have delivered in the end. When you believe in someone, you always give him a longer leash. I don't think time is running out. This is the time to back him because he is the one who is going to be with you for the World Cup. You don't want a guy in the World Cup side low on confidence, thinking if he is going to play or not."
Former India opener and coach Lalchand Rajput echoed Dahiya's views. "If I were the coach, I would persist with Shikhar. This is when the coach and director of cricket Ravi Shastri should give him confidence. You have to play him in the World Cup. In cricket, you've got to give confidence to the player and back him especially, when he is not scoring," said Rajput.
Rajput said that Dhawan has been sorted out by the opposition after his success in the first year.
"It is easier to get runs in the initial stages (of a career). Later, the opposition will work you out. You have to be smarter. Shikhar knows that. It is only a question of time," he said.
Trying to understand Dhawan's mindset, Rajput said: "He is in two minds, whether to attack or defend. He has to play his natural game. He does not have to be too aggressive or overcautious. Shikhar is a stroke player and likes to dominate the bowling. These matches before the World Cup will allow him to win the confidence back. You cannot drop him as he is in the World Cup squad. He should be persisted with. We must have patience with him."
Dhawan in Australia, 2014-15
10 vs Cricket Australia Invitatin XI, Adelaide
0 vs Cricket Australia XI, Adelaide
25 & 9 in 1st Test, Adelaide
24 & 81 in 2nd Test, Brisbane
28 & 0 in 3rd Test, Melbourne
2 vs Australia, tri-series, Melbourne
1 vs England, tri-series, Brisbane

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