8:52 pm - Tuesday November 3, 2015

Dhawan’s real test will be in Australia

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The Indian team, led by Virat Kohli, is having a gala time. In the ongoing five-ODI series, they have pulverised a listless Sri Lankan side. Under Kohli, the stand-in captain, they have excelled in all departments and everything is clicking for them just a few months before the 2015 ICC World Cup which is to be hosted jointly by Australia and New Zealand.

An aura of positivity surrounds this team, and one of the reasons for such a dominating show has been the form of its opening batsmen, and especially that of Shikhar Dhawan. In three innings so far against Sri Lanka, Dhawan has collected 283 runs, averaging a brilliant 94.33 with a century and two fifties. His strike-rate is also in excess of 100. He is in superb touch. His form should certainly be good news for India. Or is it?

It’s a fact that, of late, Dhawan has contributed immensely at the top. His aggression has helped India in being “ruthless” as Kohli said. One point to remember here is that for all his positive batting, the truth is that Dhawan has been toying with a team that had already expressed its apparent unwillingness to tour India for a hastily scrambled ODI series. The team is travelling without its best bowlers. Its senior members (read Kumar Sangakkara and captain Angelo Mathews) made it known to one and all that they are coming unprepared and that the invitation disturbed their fitness schedule. An even more important point is that these matches are being hosted in India – a batsman’s paradise. So the question is: Can one actually judge India’s preparation and Dhawan’s performance in particular based on these games? The answer is no.

In India’s overseas tour in the past one year, Dhawan’s frailties against moving and short-pitched deliveries were exposed. In South Africa, he scored 12 runs in three ODIs, then in New Zealand he could muster just 81 in four innings. On the England tour, after enduring a forgettable Test series, he scored 155 in four innings including an unbeaten 97, a commendable job. However, his real test will be in Australia where his technique will be put to a stern test. India start their tour with a four-Test series and then follow it up with a tri-series in January 2015 that also includes England. It is during this tr-series that Dhawan and India will have a chance to make a real-time assessment of their standing.

Dhawan has been scoring runs on pitches that have been more welcoming towards batsmen. His technique has failed when the conditions have favoured the bowlers. It goes without saying what he can expect in Australia and New Zealand. With Mitchell Johnson breathing fire, how Dhawan deals with him at the top will make for an interesting battle.

It’s a blessing for India, as the 28-year-old Dhawan recently said, that they have the luxury of three openers in Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and himself. This is all the more of a challenge, not just for him but for Rahane as well. Rohit has been out of the side due to injury and will be hungrier than ever to prove his worth. It also works in his favour that he has performed in Australia before. He has now recovered and will surely keep the current opening pair on their toes. It is imperative for Dhawan to build on his good run in India and carry his form to Australia – for his own good.

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