Shikhar Dhawan scored a century with a broken thumb against Australia, but the injury has ultimately denied him producing more of such performances for India in the 2019 World Cup. Earlier today, the BCCI confirmed his absence for the remainder of the tournament, rendering India a huge blow.
Dhawan, nicknamed by a few as “Mr ICC” due to his highly consistent performances in the ICC tournaments, formed an almost perfect opening combination with Rohit Sharma over the years. Even when KL Rahul forged an impressive 136-run partnership with Rohit in his first game as an opener against Pakistan last week, Dhawan's inclusion was inevitable had he gained full match-fitness.
Rishabh Pant travelled to England as cover for Dhawan, days after the game against Australia. The youngster joined the team in Manchester ahead of the game against Pakistan, and will now replace Dhawan in the World Cup squad.
As Dhawan leaves team India to work on his swift recovery, what changes could we see in the team for the rest of the tournament?
Clarity for KL Rahul
Rahul's last few weeks have been rather eventful.
When the team was announced, Vijay Shankar was named as India's first-choice for the number 4 spot. Shankar faced a training-injury ahead of India's campaign, and Rahul replaced him in the warm-up games. On May 28, he eventually scored 108 in the second practice match against Bangladesh.
10 days later, Dhawan faced an injury and Rahul was drafted in as a makeshift opener.
With such dynamism over his batting position, KL Rahul must be relieved for his personal self, even if he shares the grief of Dhawan's departure with the team. Rahul is all but confirmed for the opening spot now, which would keep his mind at one place.
Stepping into Dhawan's shoes is a big task for Rahul – heck, it is a big task for any batsman in the world. But he showed promise in the game against Pakistan. Albeit a slow innings, Rahul played his part to utmost satisfaction. The batsman kept Mohammad Amir at bay, which allowed Rohit Sharma to thunder down over the Pakistan bowlers.
The Karnataka-born batsman will now aim to steer India's campaign by taking a lead-anchor role with Rohit Sharma for the remainder of the tournament.
Rishabh Pant gets the chance, finally!
The exclusion of Rishabh Pant raised a few eyebrows among the Indian cricketing circle when the team for the World Cup was announced. The young wicketkeeper-batsman made his reputation as a highly explosive batsman who could turn the tides within a few deliveries, but a lack of consistency cost him a ticket to England at the time.
However, Pant's inclusion might be a blessing in disguise now. In Pant and Hardik Pandya, India will have two players who can change the course of the game if the situation demands heavy-lifting.
In the match against Pakistan, India's scoring-rate dropped significantly when Hardik Pandya struggled to time the ball to perfection. Vijay Shankar (15* off 15) and Kedar Jadhav (9* off 8), too, failed to give the team an aggressive finish. While Pakistan’s poor performance with the bat didn’t make a difference in the game, the lack of runs towards the finishing stages of the innings could prove costly against better-quality sides like England, Australia and New Zealand.
The arrival of Rishabh Pant will boost India's lower order in this regard.
Moreover, India's number 4 in the last two games (not counting the abandoned match against New Zealand) has been more situational than traditional. The players in the top-3 performed consistently in both the games, which only left the number 4 to arrive during the closing stages of the game.
Hardik Pandya did an impressive job coming at number 4, and Rishabh Pant could be the perfect player to follow him.
Vijay Shankar or Kedar Jadhav?
It will be unfair on Jadhav, but situation favours Shankar to stay in the XI. Bhuvneshwar Kumar's injury has made it tricky for Kedar Jadhav to keep his place in the playing XI. While the current extent of his injury is not known, captain Virat Kohli did confirm that he will not play a part in the next 2-3 games.
Shankar bowled impressively as well, taking two crucial wickets.
Kedar Jadhav isn’t used with the ball to much effect, and with due respect to him, Rishabh Pant is a better hitter of the ball. As things stand, it is a better option to include Pant for Jadhav.