The start of the season is always an opportunity for teams to correct the wrongs of the past, and embark on fresh beginnings. It also gives an opportunity for individual players to put the disappointments of the preceding season behind them and take a fresh guard. India’s home season kickstarts with the 3-match T20I series against the visiting Proteas, and it also starts the countdown to the T20 World Cup in Australia next October.
Unlike the 50-over World Cup or even the ICC Test championship, the T20 World Cup is probably the most difficult tournament to prepare for. Simple because of the fickle nature of Twenty20 cricket where form can change in minutes. But, having said that, the only thing within teams’ control is to prepare. And, India who are not leaving any stone unturned [Well! at least it feels like that courtesy wholesale changes in the bowling department], have a lot of game time between now and their first match at the T20 World Cup.
By the time India land Down Under, they would have played close to 27 T20I games- the venues of 18 of them have been announced thus far, indicating there is enough time for Kohli and Shastri to try out various options. India’s problems start at the top and Shikhar Dhawan’s dwindling returns in the shortest format of the game coupled by the fact that all of India’s top-3 play in the same gear, which considering India’s traditional lack of depth in power-hitting can come back to bit them on flat decks.
It is safe to say that Shikhar Dhawan’s best format has been One-day cricket. The southpaw, along with Rohit and Kohli, has been the lynchpin of the Indian batting in that format of the game, but the story hasn’t really been the same in Twenty20 cricket. Barring the year 2018 where Dhawan racked up 689 runs in 18 games at an average of 40.52, the left-hander has never got himself going in the shortest format of the game.
The fact that Dhawan scored double the number of half-centuries in 2018 than he has managed throughout his T20I career followed by a decent IPL season for the Delhi Capitals indicated at the time that the southpaw has finally turned a corner in the shortest format of the game but the subsequent lull [105 runs in 7 games at 15.00] at the International level has once again cast shadow on his credentials as a T20I opener.
“At best, four, or, maximum, five cricketers from the present 50-over set-up fit in a T20 perspective right now. We need to begin with that perspective and build on it,” Shastri had remarked after being re-appointed as the Head Coach. With KL Rahul breathing down the neck [899 runs at 42.80] courtesy a superior record at both the International and IPL level and his own dwindling returns, it wouldn’t be an aberration to say that this could be a make-or-break season for Dhawan.
But, one thing that you can’t rule out is his temperament in adversity. Remember 2017? When the Southpaw wasn’t in contention for the Champions Trophy or the Test series in Sri Lanka, before a last-minute injury to Rahul paved way for his comeback and we all know what happened thereafter; A golden bat in the Champions Trophy followed by a 190 at Galle in Sri Lanka. Will he respond in the same manner to adversity again? Only time will tell. It always does.
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