Shikhar Dhawan, along with Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma has been the heart and soul of India's batting lineup in One-day cricket for the better part of the last decade. The 'Gabbar' of Indian cricket has seen it all. He has been part of the team through thick and thin and has churned out match-winning performances more often than not.
Dhawan's performance in the ICC events needs no introduction, but hey, let's just look at his numbers.
Shikhar has played 10 innings in ODI World Cups and accumulated 537 runs at a staggering average of 53.70 with three 100s and a solitary 50 against his name. His strike rate in these innings has been around 95 with the highest score of 137. These numbers need no analysis and speak volumes of how well the southpaw has performed at the big events. The scales, though, have begun to shift.
The Tectonic Shift
Dhawan now plays just the ODI format of the game. His unique trait was his aggressive approach at the top of the order, making him a difficult customer to deal with. His attacking instincts allowed Rohit Sharma to settle and then go big towards the middle phase of the game.
But this is exactly where the problem has begun creeping in. Dhawan, it seems, has let go of his aggressive approach, and got into a shell. As opposed to his ODI career strike rate of 91.35, Dhawan has played 22 innings in 2022 at a strike rate of as low as 74.21. These numbers are shocking for someone who is known for his attacking approach.
The numbers are even more shocking if you consider the kind of approach that is required from a top-order batter in ODIs these days. As far as consistency is concerned, Shikhar just has six 50s to show for in the last 22 innings.
The Dynamism Of Kishan, Pant & Gill
The rise of Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan has made things worse for Dhawan. Not to mention the excitement around Rishabh Pant being an opener as well. Ishan Kishan has been in tremendous form in ODIs. His 200 vs Bangladesh has certainly heated up the discussion. In the last five ODI innings, Kishan has made a double hundred, 93 vs South Africa and a fifty vs Zimbabwe.
Two things that could work in his favour are him being a left-hander and his knack of playing at a strike rate of over 100, something that was exclusive to Shikhar Dhawan. Shubman Gill, too, has performed decently, but again, as with Shikhar Dhawan, the strike rate has been a major issue for him. In the last 5 ODI innings, Gill has a solitary 50 off 65 deliveries, a 49 vs South Africa in 57 deliveries and 45 in 42 balls vs New Zealand.
Rishabh Pant can be another option at the top, but consistency has been a major issue for him. Apart from his 123(113) vs England in England, Pant hasn't come up with any match-winning performances. He hasn't been tried as an opener though and it remains to be seen if he is even presented with that kind of opportunity.
The team management will have to take a tough call on this one. They will need to decide if they are willing to go ahead with Dhawan and his legacy and experience or if they want the dynamism that comes with the likes of Ishan Kishan, Shubman Gill and Rishabh Pant.
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If you were to ask me, I would certainly side with the Gabbar of Indian cricket. He deserves his swan song. For everything he has done for Indian cricket, Dhawan deserves to go out on the 'Shikhar' of the cricketing world.