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Shikhar Dhawan — final piece of India's puzzle

Wednesday, 2 April 2014 - 9:25am IST | Place: DHAKA | Agency: dna

Ahead of knockouts, Dhoni & Co. have all bases covered except one
  • Shikhar Dhawan stretches during a training session at Dhaka Academy in The Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka on Tuesday AFP

India have dominated Group 2 of the ICC World Twenty20 with four back-to-back wins. Prior to the start of the tournament, not many would have labelled them favourites. But right now, they are just that.

Going into the knockout stage, one can safely say India have got almost all their bases covered. Yuvraj Singh's form was a worry, but the southpaw dispelled all those fears with an imperious showing against Australia the other night. And the spinners? Well, they are the talk of the tournament.

That said, Team India have one notable problem. And that is the form of opener Shikhar Dhawan. The dashing opener has not hit the right notes in Bangladesh. However, not everyone is concerned about his showing because the others are doing well and, more importantly, the team is winning.

Even when MS Dhoni dropped Shikhar Dhawan and replaced him with Ajinkya Rahane for the inconsequential match against Australia on Sunday, the skipper indicated that the Delhi batsman was given rest to think about his game. "Rahane played in difficult conditions. It also gives Shikhar some free time to think about his game, so both players will benefit," Dhoni had reasoned. Rahane, however, failed to grab the opportunity and fell for 19.

Dhawan is likely to be back for the semifinal against South Africa on Friday. But will he be able to deliver? The 28-year-old hasn't looked convincing or comfortable in this tournament. His scores, starting from warm-up games, read 2 (vs Sri Lanka), 14 (vs England), 30 (vs Pakistan), 0 (vs the West Indies) and 1 (vs Bangladesh).

Even in the match against Pakistan, Dhawan struggled to time the ball before sweeping Saeed Ajmal for three successive fours. The left-hander was found wanting against fast bowling and away-going off-spin before he top-edged Umar Gul only to find Ajmal at fine-leg.

Against the West Indies, Dhawan looked awkward and lasted only two deliveries before getting out leg-before to Samuel Badree. A ball that could have been glided off the backfoot, Dhawan failed to read it.

However, it was a poor decision from the umpire because the ball would have missed the stumps.

Dhawan was clueless against Bangladesh. His feet were not moving and he also survived a couple of inside edges that could have hit the stumps. The unthinkable happened when he stepped out to Al-Amin Hossain. Attempting to play a desperate shot away from the body, he played on.

Not ready to give up, Dhawan has been working hard in the nets. From facing throw-downs and discussing his batting with coach Duncan Fletcher, he has done his bit. However, the results aren't showing.

Maybe that's why even his patented cover drive hasn't been on display.

Dhawan's problem is technical as well as mental and the only way he can regain that confidence is by being there in the middle. For a batsman, who had a sensational Test debut —187 against Australia — followed by superb run-scoring spree in ODIs, such struggles must be disheartening.

Whatever it is, he remains India's only worry. Who will partner Rohit Sharma — Dhawan or Rahane? Like Dhoni often says, "Wait and watch!"

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