Never say never, but there’s a high possibility that we might not ever see Shikhar Dhawan don the Indian jersey once again. The 37-year-old had a mediocre 2022 with the bat and has been dropped from the Indian squad for the three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka.
Dhawan was India’s second-highest run-getter in ODIs in 2022 but his numbers were not something you would call impressive, especially if you compare them with what he has achieved in this format over the last decade. A strike rate of 74.2 in modern-day cricket is a crime and you can’t blame the management if they have decided to move on and look at other options.
The ODI cricket is a completely different beast now compared to what it was a few years back and India have too many exciting openers waiting in the wings, starting with Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan. And, we haven’t even started talking about the likes of Ruturaj Gaikwad, Prithvi Shaw, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Narayan Jagadeesan.
The 2023 50-over World Cup is hardly 10 months away and India can't afford to leave any stone unturned. The Men in Blue haven’t won an ICC title since 2013, and considering the World Cup is happening in India, they would want an opener who is a lot more aggressive and can take the attack to the opposition from the word go.
However, no matter what happens going forward, whether we see Dhawan make a comeback or not, but no one can take away what he has achieved since becoming a regular part of the set-up in 2013. Dhawan has always played the game with a smile on his face and will go down as one of the best openers of the modern generation.
Steller record in ODIs
The left-hander made his ODI debut in 2010 but had to wait for a couple of years to become a regular member of the side. Dhawan made his return to the national side during the 2013 Champions Trophy and didn’t look back thereafter. He slammed a stunning 114 on his return against South Africa and followed it up with yet another hundred against West Indies. That’s how he announced his re-arrival in ODIs.
From 2013 to 2021, Dhawan smashed 6036 runs in 137 innings at an average of 46.79 and a strike rate of 94.5. Only Virat Kohli (8283 @ 63.72), Rohit Sharma (7227 @ 58.76) and Joe Root (6109 @ 51.34) got more runs than him in this period. Amongst batters who got at least 4000 runs in this period, Dhawan had the best balls/boundary (7.7). He has never been a six-hitter but hit more fours than anyone on the list.
In their first 167 ODIs, only Hashim Amla (7656) and Kohli (6922) managed to score more runs than Dhawan. He was also the fifth quickest to 6000 runs (140) after Amla (123), Kohli (136), Kane Williamson (139) and David Warner (139). The left-hander from Delhi averages above 45 against both pace and spin and has done well both at home and away. He operated at an average of 60.11 in England and at 50.4 in South Africa.
In this time frame, Dhawan also formed a deadly opening combination with Rohit. The two of them together have amassed 5148 runs in 115 innings at an average of 45.55, studded with 18 100-run and 15 50-run partnerships. They are the fourth-most successful opening pair in the history of ODI cricket. Only Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar have more 100-run stands than Rohit and Dhawan as openers.
India’s MVP in ICC events
There’s a big event, Dhawan is your man. Not once did he disappoint in a major 50-over ICC event. In 20 matches (World Cup and Champions Trophy), Dhawan slammed 1238 runs at an average of 65.16 and a strike rate of 98.3, decorated with four fifties and six hundreds. It all started with the 2013 Champions Trophy, in which he scored centuries against South Africa and West Indies and emerged as the leading run-scorer in the competition.
He smacked two more tons in the 2015 World Cup in Australia before slamming two fifties and a century in the 2017 Champions Trophy. Then came the 2019 World Cup in England and Dhawan clobbered 117 against Australia but could only feature in two games due to a thumb injury. Not once he averaged less than 50 in an ICC event in this format. On top of that, he had a strike rate of more than 100 in three of those four tournaments.
In fact, amongst batters who have scored at least 1000 runs in these events, Dhawan has the best batting average (65.16) and fourth-best strike rate (98.3). He is also the quickest (16 innings) to 1000 runs in these two ICC competitions. There is now very little chance that Dhawan will be part of India’s squad for the 2023 World Cup but the streets will never forget what a clutch player he has been for India.
Dhawan’s last century came in the 2019 World Cup. The opening batter didn’t get a hundred in 2020 and 2021 but still operated at an average of above 50 and a strike rate of close to 92. Dhawan, who last played a T20I in July 2021, struggled to get going in ODIs in 2022. He did score 688 runs in 22 innings at an average of 34.4, which doesn’t look too bad, but his strike rate of 74.2 does.
Amongst batters from the top-10 ranked teams who scored at least 300 runs in 2022, Dhawan had the fifth-worst strike rate. His strike rate (66.9) in the powerplay was even worse. Meanwhile, Gill (638 @ 70.89 and 102.6 SR) and Kishan (417 @ 59.57 and 109.7 SR) were far more impressive in 2022. Dhawan only managed 18 runs during the three-match ODI series in Bangladesh and that’s when the selectors decided to show him the door.
We could have seen the last of Dhawan in international cricket but it’s a funny game and you never know what can transpire in the next few months. What if Dhawan has an insane IPL 2023? What if Gill, Kishan and Gaikwad start struggling for runs? You never know. But, even if these aforementioned things don’t happen, Dhawan has already done enough to cement his place amongst the greats of the game.