The second T20I between India and Bangladesh at Rajkot saw the hosts levelling the series thanks to a sublime batting effort from stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma. Rohit featured in an opening stand of 118 in 10.5 overs with Shikhar Dhawan. However, while Rohit eased his way to 85 from 43 balls, Dhawan made a slow 31 from 27 balls before a blind heave cost him his wicket. The left-hander’s steady yet unimpressive knock at Rajkot once again brought the focus back on his T20I numbers.

It has been a while since Dhawan has been struggling to score freely in the shortest format of the game. The southpaw top-scored for India with 41 in the first T20I of the series against Bangladesh at Delhi. However, the knock came at a strike rate of under 100. Dhawan could still have made amends, but he was unfortunate to be run-out following a horrible mix-up with Rishabh Pant. There is no doubt that Dhawan is a match-winner in the ODI format. But, with the World T20 to be held in Australia next year approaching, India soon need to take a call on whether the Delhi batsman fits into the scheme of things.

What the numbers say about Dhawan the T20I opener?

Dhawan has so far featured in 57 T20I games for India, and has scored 1,485 runs at an average of 28.01 and a strike rate of 128.34. He has nine fifties to his name with a best of 92. These are not bad T20I numbers, but dig deeper, and there is where the problem lies. Dhawan doesn’t have a single T20I fifty to his name in 2019. His highest score is, in fact, the slow knock of 41 at Delhi, mentioned above. In the preceding series against South Africa, he registered scores of 40 and 36, failing to carry on from starts as the Proteas squared the series 1-1.

Dhawan’s other scores in T20Is this year don’t make for impressive reading either — 29, 30 and 5 vs New Zealand, 14 vs Australia, and 1, 23 and 3 vs West Indies. The opener’s overall T20I numbers in 2019 read as follows — 11 matches, 253 runs at an average of 23. The figures would hardly inspire confidence as India look to build a team for the World T20 next year. Dhawan’s numbers are in stark contrast to his T20I stats in 2018 when he came up with, by far, his most impressive performance — 18 matches for 689 runs at an average of 40.52. The comparison clearly shows that the dip in Dhawan’s T20I fortunes has been stark.

Beyond just stats

It is not just the numbers that are the worrying aspect of Dhawan’s T20I performances. 30s and 40s would have been very much acceptable had they been scored at a rate considered standard in T20 cricket. However, that has been far from the case. While Dhawan scored under a run-a-ball at Delhi, he was only slightly better with his strike rate at Rajkot. And this has been the norm of sorts for most of 2019.

At Rajkot, Rohit’s blitzkrieg allowed Dhawan ample breathing space, but he couldn’t make full use of the opportunity. And, in the match at Delhi, he got stuck once Rohit was dismissed and could just not pick up the scoring rate. Even in the Bengaluru T20I against South Africa that India lost, Dhawan (36) could not carry on after Rohit fell cheaply. The experienced opener has the amazing ability to silence his critics every time he is put under pressure. But, unless he comes up with the goods in the deciding match at Nagpur, the Indian think-tank must seriously consider his future as T20I opener.

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