Just when you thought everything is going absolutely fine for India, bad luck has struck again and the developments could be extremely harmful to India's chances at the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales. As India sweat over Shikhar Dhawan's injury, the selectors would need to take a big call regarding the southpaw, who was hitting top gear.
Dhawan, who injured his thumb from a Nathan Coulter-Nile delivery during the Australia game, continued to carry on and smacked a 109-ball 117 before falling to Mitchell Starc in the 37th over. Dhawan looked in fine touch and his record in England only meant that it was going to get even better. But, it turns out, India are not lucky enough and they are set to lose their talisman at the top of the order for at least three weeks.
If three weeks are considered, Dhawan is set to miss the games against New Zealand, Pakistan, Afghanistan, West Indies and England -- a crucial part of the tournament. So, does India take a risk by persisting with him in the squad or call in a replacement? Most likely the second.
In Dhawan's absence, KL Rahul, who was batting at No.4 ahead of Vijay Shankar and Dinesh Karthik, will be moved up the order to open the batting -- an obvious choice. Thus, leaving the much debated No.4 spot open again.
With India finding stability in Rahul at 4 this would come as a massive blow but this could also open up the door for someone, who almost knocked it down but missed out because of being 'one-dimensional'. While Virat Kohli & Co. may well decide to stick to Shankar or Dinesh Karthik and give either of them a shot at the coveted spot, the names of Rishabh Pant and at a stretch Shreyas Iyer are also being thrown around to replace Dhawan if he is ruled out completely.
If Pant and most importantly, Iyer is called upon ahead of Ambati Rayudu, who played most of the matches in the lead-up to the World Cup, will feel hard one but a flop show in the Indian Premier League has turned the tables in favour of Pant and Iyer. Both playing for Delhi Capitals, starred for the franchise and carried them to their first-ever Playoffs spot in more than five years and their form will be a major consideration if a replacement is to be picked.
While Pant has smashed 488 runs from 16 games, Iyer has 463 runs from the same number of games. However, what tilts the tied in Pant's favour is the enormous backing he has enjoyed from the cricketing fraternity and his ability to turn the game on its head. The 21-year-old played some eye-catching cricket in IPL 2019 and scored at the strike-rate of 162.66. Pant smashed 27 sixes and 37 boundaries in total and remained not out on three occasions. While his inability to finish games off remains a question, his ability to take the game away from the opposition gives him and India the edge down the order. A combined attack of Pant and Hardik Pandya could be a nightmare for any team and the team management could be tempted to draft in the youngster and go all guns blazing in the remaining six games.
What the MSK Prasad-led selection committee decides remains to be seen but snubbing Pant once again if the opportunity arrives could once again create a backlash in the media and that is something the team would want to avoid because at the end of the day, having a like for like game changer towards the end is not a bad option at all.