Shikhar Dhawan's future under scanner following emergence of Ishan Kishan as a strong ODI contender
Ishan Kishan came up with a booming performance in the final Chiittagong ODI against Bangladesh on Saturday. Meanwhile, it has put Shikhar Dhawan's future in the Indian side in doubt.
Veteran opener Shikhar Dhawan's One-Day International (ODI) future is likely to be discussed by the new selection committee, which is expected to be formed soon. A tough call will not be a surprise after young wicketkeeper-opener Ishan Kishan emerged as a strong option with his scintillating double hundred. Dhawan has struggled poorly in eight out of his last nine ODIs. Also, the Delhi left-hander batted with a dated approach, proving detrimental for the team during the PowerPlay (PP) overs. It is not always about intent but also the inability to force the pace with a limited range of strokes to choose from. Shubman Gill or a Kishan are more innovative in this day and age of the Twenty20s (T20s).
While no date has been given, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will hold a review meeting of the team's performance and discuss the roadmap with head coach Dravid and National Cricket Academy (NCA) head VVS Laxman on the way ahead. As PTI reported during the ICC T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia, a source confirmed that phasing out the senior players would start the following year.
"A call on Shikhar's future will only be taken after a new selection committee is appointed. But, head coach Rahul Dravid and skipper Rohit Sharma's views can't be ignored," a senior BCCI source privy to developments told PTI on conditions of anonymity. The primary problem with Dhawan has been a sharp decline in his strike rate from 100 plus till the ICC World Cup 2019 to a dismal 75 in 2022.
Kishan's double hundred and, more importantly, his freshness to the approach will make the team management ponder the sensitive selection matters. It is not easy to discard a player who has played 167 ODIs and is currently third highest (6,793) in the list of current India run-getters behind Rohit (9,454) and Virat Kohli (12,471).
There is a school of thought that Dhawan is given at least the last six ODIs in January against Sri Lanka and New Zealand and then take a call before the Australia ODIs at the end of March. But, the counter-argument to that is what happens when Shubman Gill, one of the most consistent ODI batters in the last six months, is back in the ODI fold in January.
For some strange reason, the outgoing committee, led by Chetan Sharma, decided to rest Gill from the Bangladesh ODIs even though the young batter hasn't had much workload as he was not even a part of the Asia Cup or T20WC squad. No Test matches were held after the one against England in July.
When batters like Gill and Kishan are waiting in the wings, keeping them in the dug-out for too long is difficult. Also, Dhawan, Rohit and Kohli can't play in the same ODI XI, just like Rohit, KL Rahul, and Kohli can't be top three in T20Is. Kohli, it has been observed in recent times, loves playing the anchor role more often than not, with a designated enforcer at the other end doing the front-loading or heavy lifting.
Even skipper Rohit could play his own attacking game if a player like Gill or Kishan is holding the fort at the other end. Dhawan also plays a game where he makes a cautious start and accelerates only deep into the middle overs, making up for the dot balls consumed.
That kind of conservative style has been hurting India for some time. Meanwhile, England has shown that now is the time for a change in approach. Hence, it would be increasingly difficult for Dhawan to keep his place in the ODI set-up. Another aspect that would bother the decision-makers is that apart from ODIs, he isn't playing any format. While he did play one domestic T20 (Syed Mushtaq Ai Trophy) and two 50-over games (Vijay Hazare), Dhawan hasn't played any first-class matches for the last four years.
"There is no substitute for game time. Do you mean that Shikhar will start playing ODIs in mid-January without any match practice for the next month? Even Surya[kumar Yadav] is committed to playing Ranji Trophy games for Mumbai as he wants to be in the groove. You can understand when he is playing multi-formats. So on what basis will you choose him," a former national selector, who has worked with both MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, said.
Mostly separate squads expected for ODIs and T20Is
India has a packed calendar starting with the home season on January 3. While there is a lot of curiosity about Rohit's future as T20I captain and all-rounder Hardik Pandya's imminent ascendancy, the way BCCI functions, one might not see any decision being taken. Still, a silent phase-out process could be followed.
Between January 3 and February 1, India plays 12 white ball matches in 29 days, including six against New Zealand and six against Sri Lanka. Six ODIs and six T20Is are in 12 different cities, which means 12 flights. While travelling is an underrated aspect of workload management, it is expected that T20Is and ODIs will have at least 75 to 80 per cent different names. The ODI squad may have players the team management thinks will play the 2023 edition.
"Why do you need to announce Rohit's removal from T20I captaincy? Is T20Is top priority in 2023? No. BCCI has never worked as per public sentiments. It has its style of functioning. But yes, you can easily ask Rohit, Virat and KL Rahul to focus on ODIs and Test series against Australia, which are more important for the time being and let Hardik lead in the six T20Is," said a BCCI old-timer.
(With inputs from PTI)