‘One man’s misfortune is another man’s joy.’

That’s probably what would be pasted on KL Rahul’s mantlepiece, as he grabbed his opportunity with both hands in the limited-overs series against the West Indies, deputizing brilliantly for the injured fellow opener Shikhar Dhawan. 

The Karnataka batsman was the second highest Indian run-scorer in that tournament with 185 runs, scoring a fifty and a century in two match winning causes for his side. Rahul forged a brilliant partnership with Rohit Sharma, ending 2019 as the most successful pair for Indian cricket. 

The West Indies series also saw a few of India’s middle-order batsmen like Rishabh Pant and Kedar Jadhav also bring their best to the table, practically sealing their spots in the team. With the T20 World Cup now just a few months away, India will be looking to play a consistent XI in their subsequent matches to give their players sufficient gametime. That could however be bad news for Delhi opener Shikhar Dhawan, who has practically been a constant in India’s team this past decade.

Dhawan’s final chance?

Despite having made a name for himself as a T20 batsman, guarding his Indian T20 league franchise team Hyderabad to the title in 2016, Dhawan has struggled this season to make a mark in the shortest format of the game. The southpaw batsman failed to score a T20 International fifty in the whole of last year, with his highest score being 41 against Bangladesh. 

Dhawan’s average has also plummeted massively this past year, falling from 40.52 to 22.66. The opener also struggled to replicate his quintessentially attacking brand of cricket in 2019, with his strike rate just marginally above a 100 in the shortest format of the game.

His form aside, age is a major factor going against Dhawan. He is already 34-year-old and is approaching the twilight years of his career. Apart from the T20 World Cup, the next limited-overs ICC tournament will be played only in 2021. Dhawan might be totally out of favour by then with the emergence of a few promising youngsters like Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw; and therefore the T20 World Cup in Australia could be the last chance for the southpaw to contribute in a major competition. 

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Perfect opportunity 

The home series against Sri Lanka represents a great chance for Shikhar Dhawan to once again make his mark in Indian colours. With Rohit Sharma being rested for this three-match series, the 34-year-old is all but assured of a starting place in the Indian team. 

And if the past record is anything to go by, Dhawan would be optimistic of scoring big runs in the two remaining T20s. Having played eight T20 Internationals against the island nation, the southpaw has amassed 205 runs at an average of 41. The stylish left-handed batsman also scored a quickfire 90 in the Nidahas Trophy of 2018 against the Lankans. 

The pressure would be immense on Shikhar Dhawan to perform in this series, but if history has taught us anything, then one shouldn’t be ruling out a return for the southpaw. Dhawan has always performed when the stakes have been high, with a man of the series display in 2013 Champions Trophy and two quality performances in the World Cups of 2015 and 2019. 

Lasith Malinga and co. offer a new test for the southpaw, one that could determine his T20 future. But with his previous showings and impeccable record against this Asian side, expect Shikhar Dhawan to fight on in the games to come. 

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Sajjad Hussain