A second-string Team, India, led by Shikhar Dhawan, beat a full-strength South Africa squad 2-1 in a recently concluded one-day series at home.

A second-string Team India led by Shikhar Dhawan, beat a full-strength South Africa squad 2-1 in a recently concluded one-day series at home. With most of the big names missing since they are in Australia for the T20 World Cup preparations, India’s fringe players did a very good job in the series. Shreyas Iyer was the leading run-getter with 191 runs in three matches at an average of 191, while left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav was the highest wicket-taker, claiming six wickets in three matches. 

While there were plenty of positives for Team India from the one-day series, the biggest disappointment was, undoubtedly, the performance of captain Dhawan. The 36-year-old looked completely out of sync during his three innings. He scored 4 off 16 in the first match, dragging a delivery from Wayne Parnell back onto his stumps. In the next match, he scored 13 off 20 and was again bowled by Parnell, playing all around a length ball. Dhawan’s dismissal in the decider was symptomatic of his below-par show. He was run out after a mix-up with Shubman Gill and was slow in turning back to try and return to the crease.

A unique one-format challenge for Dhawan

More than form, it’s the fact that he plays for India in only one format (ODIs) that’s the biggest challenge for Dhawan. Had he been part of the T20I outfit, he would have played more games and, as a result, would have been in a better batting rhythm. However, the southpaw hasn’t played a T20I for the Men in Blue since the white ball tour of Sri Lanka in July 2021, when he was the captain. His Test career ended in September 2018, when he played the last of his 34 Tests against England at The Oval. As such, Dhawan has to wait for his opportunity to play for India, and often the gap is of months. 

After the tour of Sri Lanka, he had to wait unit January 2022 to play for India, when the Men in Blue took on the Proteas in a three-match one-day series in South Africa. Since the start of 2022, Dhawan has played 16 innings for India. He played only one ODI of the home series against West Indies, having tested COVID-19 positive. Subsequently, he went on a tour of England, the West Indies and Zimbabwe before the recently concluded home series against the Proteas. Arshdeep Singh, who made his debut in July this year, has already played 13 T20Is for India.

Time to look beyond Dhawan?

Following his disappointing performance against South Africa, during which he just scored 25 runs in three innings, questions are being raised about the veteran batter’s spot in the Indian one-day team. The Men in Blue have the option to bring in KL Rahul to open with skipper Rohit Sharma in one-dayers as well. Also, from Shreyas Iyer to Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan, a few batters could fit into the ODI middle order. However, the question is, should India start looking to replace Dhawan in one-dayers, keeping the 2023 World Cup in mind? Not yet.

While Dhawan did have a forgettable series with the bat against South Africa at home, his overall one-day numbers since the start of 2022 have not been all that bad. On the contrary, he has done quite well. In 16 innings, he has scored 567 runs at an average of 40.50 with a highest of 97. While he failed to register a half-century in England, he scored two fifties in three matches in South Africa, two in West Indies and one in Zimbabwe. However, because of the gap between his appearances for India, the extent of his failures gets magnified.

It is not to say that Dhawan’s form is not a concern. It is, for he hasn’t scored a hundred since the 2019 World Cup against Australia. For now, his berth for the 2023 World Cup seems reasonably secure, but a few more low scores and the selectors will be forced to start looking elsewhere.

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