In the preview to the Boxing Day Test, there were plenty of question marks as to whether Shikhar Dhawan should or should not feature in the playing eleven for the must-win third Test. Of course, it was difficult to leave him out considering he had made 81 in the previous innings at Brisbane. But, the circumstances under which he got those runs were controversial, as he batted down the order, and his injury too is being probed by the BCCI. While the innings he played was a pleasant one, but the manner in which he threw his wicket away was downright disappointing, and he might rue the shot if his career hits a roadblock anytime soon, which might be the case.
Dhawan should consider himself lucky that he was chosen for the Melbourne Test in spite of only registering one half-century over the course of the last five Tests. In that sense, the first innings of the Boxing Day Test was critical for him. But, he disappointed yet again. Not for the first time, Dhawan fell after getting his eye in, and doing all the hard work. He was worked over by Ryan Harris at Adelaide as well, and here too he couldn't overcome his nemesis. Dhawan's career is getting to that stage now where the selectors would seriously be considering the merits of having him open in Tests.
The problem with Dhawan is actually two-fold, his technique as well as his temperament. Every time he has got a start, he has looked good out in the middle. But, there have been deliveries that have been troubling him, particularly the ones outside the off stump. Unlike his opening partner Murali Vijay, the left-hander seems to have little clue about where his off stump is. On Saturday as well at Melbourne, he was dismissed feeling for the ball. For an opener, knowing how to leave the ball is as important as hitting it. This is where Dhawan has been faltering time and again.
Speaking of Dhawan's temperament, he hasn't so far shown the toughness needed to survive in the five-day game. The fact that he did not go out to bat early on day four at Brisbane, and then got out for 81, playing a poor shot when he could have gone on to make a significant hundred was an indication of his lack of Test match preparedness. Remember, Australia lost six wickets chasing a small total in that game. Umesh Yadav was giving excellent company to Dhawan at the other end. Had the two combined to score another 20-30 runs, who knows how things might have panned out.
It is not that players with suspect techniques have not succeeded in Test cricket. Take the case of Dhawan's mate Virender Sehwag, who scored runs in all sorts of conditions at his peak. He did not have a great technique, but made up for it with his hand-eye coordination. More importantly, Sehwag had a lot of self-belief in himself, and backed his style of play. This is something which seems to be lacking in Dhawan, especially when he plays away from home. A lot of eyes will be centred on Dhawan when he comes out to bat a second time round. What if gets out cheaply again? More importantly, what if he gets a half-century, or a hundred?
--By A Cricket Analyst