Should Shikhar Dhawan open the batting for India in ODIs?

shikhar dhawan ODI 2

Shikhar Dhawan’s received a fair amount of criticism of late. It’s time to examine whether all of it is warranted, and if he should open the batting for India in the first ODI against England.

Let’s begin by taking a look at the team that’s been picked.

The BCCI has picked three ODI openers – KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane. Of the three, Rahane is the incumbent opener, which to me indicates that he could be the first choice. A lot has changed since then, including the ODI captaincy and Rahane’s own form, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Rahane takes the field against England.

We then move on to Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul. Rahul has taken Dhawan’s place in the Test team, and has displayed a new, aggressive side to his batting. Dhawan on the other hand has been criticized in columns and on social media, and the general feeling is that he’s a little over-rated. I’d bought into that narrative too, until I decided to dig into the numbers. (Credit: ESPNCricinfo’s Statsguru)

Dhawan ODI numbers since 2013

Turns out Shikhar Dhawan’s been scoring plenty of runs in ODIs, and has been doing so for four years now. He hasn’t been a flat-track bully either – Dhawan has scored runs in Australia and England too.

Dhawan ODI country breakdown since 2013

So why has Shikhar Dhawan picked up a reputation for not being very consistent? I suspect the answer lies in his 2016 T20I and Test numbers.

In 2016, Dhawan averaged 26.00 in the 4 Tests that he played, and 25.08 in 14 T20Is at a strike rate of 117.57. Public memory is short, and given that India didn’t play too many ODIs last year, Dhawan’s picked up an unfair ODI reputation due to his T20I numbers.

Now you could argue that his overall batting form (format agnostic) hasn’t been great based on those numbers, and that’s not all that bad an argument. It depends on whether you view the three formats as distinct entities requiring different skill-sets. I do, and offer MS Dhoni as the best example of an excellent ODI batsman, whose T20I and Test numbers never matched his 50-over form. The Indian selectors seem to feel that way too, as evidenced by their ‘horses for courses’ Test and T20I squads. If that is indeed true, Shikhar Dhawan should make the playing XI against England on Jan 15th.

 

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