The form and consistency on display from Shikhar Dhawan from the start of the last year’s edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) have been eye-catching. The experienced Delhi Capitals (DC) left-hand opening batter has looked in magnificent touch as a T20 batter since IPL 2020 in UAE.
Taking question marks raised on his intent and position within the senior Indian team for the shortest version to heart, Shikhar Dhawan has shown a vastly improved game and significantly more aggressive approach for DC.
The IPL 2020 was played under challenging circumstances across venues in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. However, Dhawan still came out triumphant and scored 618 runs from his 17 innings at a strike-rate of 144.73 while averaging 44.14 per innings.
Shikhar Dhawan’s tournament tally in IPL 2020 included two magnificent centuries as he played a vital role in taking DC to the final – their best-ever finish in IPL history. The left-hander has only continued from where left in this year’s edition of the IPL and has helped DC win two of their three matches with a couple of vital knocks.
After scoring a 54-ball 85 in the victory over Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Shikhar Dhawan soon backed it up with 49-ball 92 in the win against Punjab Kings (PBKS). When Dhawan missed out in the game versus Rajasthan Royals (RR), DC suffered a three-wicket loss – which only shows his importance to the team at the top of the order.
Shikhar Dhawan continues from strength to strength in new-found T20 avatar
Following the match against PBKS, Dhawan was asked about his improving strike-rate as a T20 batter and the 35-year-old gave a very interesting response. Shikhar Dhawan put his newfound avatar down to his willingness to take more risks and not being afraid of changes.
“It was a conscious effort from my side and I started taking more risks. I’m not afraid of changes,” Shikhar Dhawan had said at the post-match presentation.
“I’m always open towards changes and I make sure I give it a good try in the nets and then in the games. I’m not scared of getting out as well. I’ve worked on the leg-side shots, coming in the crease, using the pace of the bowler.”
In the match against Mumbai Indians (MI) on Tuesday (April 20), while Shikhar Dhawan found it tough to get the big shots going on a deteriorating, spin-friendly track at Chepauk, he still managed to score an important 45 in his team’s win. Dhawan’s better returns have unsurprisingly coincided with him showing an expanded range against both spinners and pacers.
Since the start of IPL 2020, among the types of bowling Dhawan has faced for a minimum of 50 deliveries, he has not had an unacceptable strike-rate against any. He has, in fact, dominated some.
While Dhawan is enjoying a greater sense of freedom to his T20 game after breaking the shackles imposed on him, his direct competitor for the opening slot in India’s T20I side – KL Rahul – seems to be going in a completely opposite direction. Despite facing criticism over compromising on his strike-rate for batting deep in IPL 2020, PBKS skipper Rahul hasn’t mended his ways in IPL 2021 and is continuing on the same path.
Even though Rahul has been quite vocal in the justification of his approach, when he doesn’t maximise the powerplay overs from an end and fails to accelerate later in the innings, PBKS suffer badly for it by either missing out on a par total or failing to chase a score down.
With a T20 World Cup looming large, the selectors will have to consider if Rahul’s ways are only reserved for when he turns up in IPL colours and whether he’ll be batting upto his potential while representing the country. Either way, the newfound T20 avatar of Shikhar Dhawan will put Rahul’s place under immense pressure.