Time to look beyond Shikhar Dhawan

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(Source: Gareth Copley/Getty Images Europe) )

With T20 World Cup 2020, Australia just less than a year away, it is high time for BCCI and
Indian selectors to look at alternatives other than Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order.
The dashing opener from Delhi hasn’t been in great form in the 20 over format lately. In his
last 10 innings for India, he has scored mere 222 runs at a strike rate of 109.36 with no
fifties. Apart from the international matches, if we look at the stats of IPL 2019, he scored
just five fifties in 16 games with 521 runs under his name. As much as we know Gabbar for
his style and flair, he is not able to provide quick starts for the team.
The team management and the captain Virat Kohli has backed Shikhar Dhawan time and
again but with no results. The prolific opener has consistently done well in the ODI’s but has
failed to either convert his starts into big scores in shorter format or has taken too much
time in settling down. This was even evident in the last T20I against Bangladesh where
Dhawan after staying for almost 15 overs scored only 41 off 42 deliveries.

The Alternatives
There have been a lot of talks regarding who will be rightly fit to bat alongside Rohit Sharma
come the T20 World Cup. If Rohit has a bond in ODI’s with Shikhar then it is KL Rahul who he
bonds nicely in the T20I’s. The duo has the record highest T20 partnership for India. With
India dropping KL from the red ball squad, they can definitely promote him as the specialist
T20 opener alongside the Hitman. KL has been in prolific form since the 2016 IPL. He has
scored more than 2800 runs at a strike rate of over 140 with three centuries. He has always
been considered as a backup opener but he has shown what a brute force he can be if given
a chance at the top of the order like he did in the past two seasons of IPL.
The domestic circuit of Indian cricket gives the BCCI and the selectors ample options to
choose from. The possibilities for the long term at the top of the order are Mayank Agarwal,
Shubman Gill, the prodigy Prithvi Shaw and the wicket keeper batsman Sanju Samson. It is
the right time to chop and change and to try various personnel so that when the time comes
best 15 can be picked.
A regular test opener now, Mayank Agarwal is not new to the opening position. Opened for
his state team in all formats makes him a suitable candidate. And he will have a good
companionship with Rohit as the duo has started playing together at the top of the order in
tests too. The likes of Gill and Shaw who came from the U-19 platforms and groomed under
the great Rahul Dravid are fearless and well suited if given enough opportunities. They both
have performed well for their state teams as well as for their franchise. Another trainee of
Dravid is Kerala’s Sanju Samson. Sanju has recently scored a double hundred in the Vijay
Hazare trophy which got him the international call. However, originally a middle order
batsman, he can be considered as an opener also keeping in mind the format and his
abilities.

New management team
No major ICC trophies since 2013 will be haunting Indian team management and they will
be looking to get this one down under. With around 15 T20I’s, domestic

T20 tournament
and IPL2020 in the schedule till the world cup, the board will be on their toes to find the
right combination at the top. Also, Saurav Ganguly taking charge of the BCCI, there will be
many unexpected moves in the near future. He himself has seen Dhawan from close
quarters during his time as mentor of Delhi Capitals. It will be interesting to see if he plays
any role in giving more chances to Dhawan or will India see a new opening duo in upcoming
T20I’s.

Some stats to follow:
IPL stats of some of the players who can be considered for opening slot for Indian team in
T20I. (with decreasing Strike Rate)
Name Innings Runs Strike Rate Fifties Hundreds
Prithvi 25 598 141.04 4 0
Rahul 58 1977 138.16 16 1
Shubman 24 499 132.36 4 0
Sanju 89 2209 130.25 10 2
Mayank 72 1209 128.54 5 0
Shikhar 158 4578 124.78 37 0

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