India are 2-0 up in a 4 Test series against Australia. They are outplaying their guests in every facet of the game. Homework gate happens here. So too does the Test debut of Shikhar Dhawan.
Not a young man, he walks to the crease at age 28. Australia have batted first in this match, making a respectable 408. A number that will forever be remembered by cricket enthusiasts for a more solemn reason.
Hughes, Cowan and Smith all make 50’s. Starc makes 99 before succumbing to Ishant.
Only one other Australian batsman makes it past 9 runs. Perhaps the pitch is not quite a batsman’s paradise.
Enter debutante Shikhar Dhawan.
187 runs later off only 174 balls and a star is born.
Driving, cutting, flicking the ball off his pads, deft knocks and leg glances.
A record opening stand of nearly 300 with Vijay.
It so nearly could have ended before a ball was bowled.
Starc, while running in to deliver the first ball of the innings had the ball slip from his hand and hit the stumps at the bowlers end. Dhawan was backing up and was out of his crease. Senanayake would have appealed and he would have been out. A diamond duck on debut. Australia chose not to follow that path. Mankads were not yet acceptable.
Instead, we witnessed the dawn of another in a long line of New Age Indian batsmen who have brought brilliance to the Test arena. There was no need to panic at the loss of Sachin, Dravid and Ganguly. India have Kohli, Pujara and now Dhawan.
Dhawan didn’t bat again that series due to receiving a hand injury in the field.
When he finally returned to face the West Indies and South Africa, some cracks appeared.
7 innings against them without a 50. Surely he is no flash in the pan?
A century followed by a 98 in New Zealand silenced the jungle drums for a short time. Dhawan was the real deal. Bona fide.
13 more innings have now passed, made up of a tour of England and one of Australia. Dhawan has only passed 50 runs once in that time.
At the MCG on Day 5, he needed to stand up. Australia had a 350+ run lead. Dhawan needed to see off the new ball. In comes Ryan Harris. A gorilla with a head of steam up and a swinging new hard nut.
The pads are struck on his 5th ball. The finger goes up. Dhawan has done nothing to help his team.
It is no disgrace to be caught in the web of a Harris opening spell. He has mastered everyone at some stage. However, more fight was required. Dhawan was back in his crease. He could have chosen to bat out of it to quash the swing. Take the LBW out of play. He chose the opposite. It was poor batting.
However, this is just an illustration to highlight a point.
Perhaps Dhawan suffers from the same judgement that falls upon Shane Watson. Both are beautiful to watch in full flight. They have the shots. They can make scores. Their first class records tell us that. However, at Test level, their temperament fails them. They lack patience. A modern day top order batsman can no longer play like Gavaskar or Geoff Marsh. Instead, they feel that they are expected to go at a run a ball. Play shots. Be David Warner.
Dhawan has now played 23 innings. He has only faced 100 balls on 4 occasions. This is not good enough for an opener. His job is to lay a foundation and see the new ball off. It is not to average 35 and get out consistently while the ball is still helping the fielding side.
Dhawan now resides in Melbourne with his family. An international cricketer spends plenty of time on the road these days. But does being away from India when not playing have any role to play?
Has Shikhar Dhawan peaked?
If so, he has fizzled out quicker than a North Korean missile test.
He can clearly play.
Perhaps, like many Indian players, he is better suited to the shorter formats of the game. One that is more forgiving of the loose shot or the guys that makes a run a ball 40.
However, this will not suffice in the Test Match arena.
Dhawan has the technical skills to be a great Indian opener. Can he find the mental skills?
Reprinted with permission at First Post India