Slowly but surely the missing pieces in the jigsaw puzzle that is the composition of the Indian team for the World Cup are falling into place. While most were certainties two or three places remained to be filled by the fringe players and a couple of them have virtually clinched their places and the selectors should be ready with their squad by now.
However even as the finalization has just about taken place there appears to be a question mark over one of the certainties. The form of Shikhar Dhawan is causing concern and while his place is not in any danger the runs have dwindled and the big scores he is so capable of have evaporated. Dhawan is a match winner as he has proved time and again thanks to his swashbuckling approach. When he is on song the bowling has never looked so helpless. Always on the look out for runs, always ready to play the big shots Dhawan can be a nightmare for the best of bowlers. No one can question his credentials. In 124 innings he has 5199 runs at an average of 44 coupled with a strike rate of 93 and 15 hundreds.
What is causing concern is his form of late. Since the Asia Cup in the UAE last year where he topped the figures with 342 runs from five innings at an average of 68 and a strike rate of 102 Dhawan has managed only 376 runs in 15 innings at an average of 26.85 with just two half centuries. With KL Rahul breathing down his neck Dhawan cannot afford to prolong this run. Indeed on the eve of the ODI series against Australia Virat Kohli spoke very highly of Rahul saying that his sparkling strokeplay strengthened his case for the World Cup.
Question marks have been raised about Dhawan’s technique in the past but this time the experts feel that it is the mindset that is the cause for his lean patch. They are convinced that once he gets out of this mental block he will be back to his buccaneering days when he just toys with the bowling.
The key question is whether Dhawan should be dropped for a match or two to help him regain his rhythm and confidence. With just the three matches in the ongoing series before the World Cup it would be better if he is retained and hope that he finds his form. In any case one would think twice before breaking up one of the most successful opening partnerships in ODI history. And perhaps the most encouraging fact is that Dhawan has always come off in England. He was the player of the tournament in the Champions Trophy in 2013 and again topped the run getters list in the Champions Trophy four years later.