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Shikhar Dhawan faces tough challenge ahead of an important season for India

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Shikhar Dhawan showed grit and patience during his unbeaten 97 in the 4th ODI © Getty Images

Twirling his moustache, the dashing Shikhar Dhawan returned back to the pavilion at Edgbaston in the fourth One-Day International (ODI), having smashed an unbeaten 97. While the Indians may be chuffed  with Dhawan’s performance, there is a long and arduous journey ahead that the Indian opener has to make, says Devarchit Varma.

There is something about the struggles and comebacks in sports. Any top notch player of highest quality is bound to go through a lean patch couple of times in his career and it is something that no one can avoid. During the tour of England, which saw India losing the Test series in an embarrassing manner and then bouncing back in an emphatically in the One-Day International (ODI) series, the poor form of a few players from both sides was on display. For India, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli struggled on all fronts while England had their captain Alastair cook looking out of sorts and his form has remained a concern.

Dhawan and Kohli have been pillars in the Indian batting line-up, and their poor form worsened India’s position on the tour. They did lose the Test series, which left the Indian fans rueing the opportunity of winning in England (given their poor state before the start of the Test series) had these two been in form. Nevertheless, both Dhawan and Kohli have shown positive signs with the bat and the former has in fact notched up a big score in order to keep his position intact in the Indian side.

Dhawan’s run in this tour has been identical to that of Cook, as both the left-handers have had their fair share of troubles. While lack of footwork and swing and seam generated by English bowlers added to Dhawan’s woes, Cook has been struggling outside the off-stump consistently. However, India certainly are a different side in limited-overs cricket and Dhawan has shown he truly belongs to shorter formats. Throughout the tour, he has played his shots comfortably, and this has resulted in him being looking poised for a big knock. The way he planned his innings in the fourth ODI proved that Dhawan is someone who is always working on his weaknesses and is eager to correct what has gone wrong.

The challenge that lies in front of Dhawan is to not let go of the opportunity. There are two more games to go on the England tour and then the Team India will be back in their happy hunting grounds taking on a lowly West Indies. Dhawan has all the opportunities to make it big and build on the form that he regained in the fourth ODI against England at Edgbaston. India have begun their build-up to the ICC World Cup 2015 on a positive note and so has Dhawan. All that the Indian opener needs to do is to remain confident and keep up the momentum, as the team is heading into a very crucial stage.

The biggest tournament in the 50-over format is six months away and every single international side has started their planning and preparations for it. India will be served well if their openers continue to provide good starts, as the tournament in Australia and New Zealand will be very challenging for the teams from the subcontinent. Dhawan has had his problems with the ball moving around and  bounce that Australasian  pitches may generate, but he is not someone who can be easily put under pressure and derailed. All that he needs to do is to put his chin up and play his natural game.

Virat Kohli is perhaps the only player left in the Indian contingent who hasn’t notched up a big score yet on this tour. He would certainly draw a lot of confidence from Dhawan and his team’s success, and it will not be exaggerating to say that a big knock may be just around the corner. It will be interesting to see if Kohli ends his first England tour without a big knock.

Complete coverage of India’s tour of England 2014

(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)

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