Shikhar Dhawan (left) and Ajinkya Rahane © Getty Images
Shikhar Dhawan (left) and Ajinkya Rahane are both vying for a spot at the top of the order © Getty Images

Shikhar Dhawan’s second failure in the tri-series Down Under has set tongues wagging. While the presence of Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma means that Dhawan can ill-afford to take it easy, it is imperative that India give him a longer run and not judge him considering his recent Test failures as well. Apart from Dhawan, even Rahane has to convert his starts more consistently, writes Nishad Pai Vaidya.

Pace and movement has clearly troubled Shikhar Dhawan during the ongoing sojourn Down Under. With the exception of his innings of 81 in the second Test at The Gabba, this tour has been a struggle for the southpaw. Moving into his more preferred format, the struggle has continued with the new ball engulfing him early. Mitchell Starc had him in all sorts of problems during the first game, and then James Anderson had him edging to the wicketkeeper in Brisbane. Dhawan has to make amends soon, as Ajinkya Rahane is pushing for a spot at the top.

Prior to this series, it was quite clear that Dhawan would open the batting. It was only a tussle between Rahane and Rohit Sharma for the second opener’s spot. Rohit has more or less settled himself at the top with that double ton on comeback in November. But, his recent century at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) has strengthened his case even more. Rahane has been solid at the top and was waiting for his shot. Dhawan’s failures may open the door for him to open the batting yet again, this time with Rohit.

One may say that the pressure on Dhawan is intense as his Test failures linger in recent memory. But, if one takes his limited overs form alone, he deserves a longer run at the top. He may have had two tough outings, but he needs to be given more chances. Last year, he bounced back in England during the last few One-Day Internationals (ODIs). A player like him is only an innings away from getting into good rhythm. Keep aside his failures in Test cricket, and focus on his performances in the blue jersey. When you do that, you know he deserves a longer run.

Ajinkya Rahane must convert starts more consistently

Rahane got into the 30s in the second ODI against England, and was looking good against a testing bowling attack. Instead of building on that innings, he threw it away by charging at a fast-bowler and holing out to mid-on. For someone with a calm temperament and a sound technique, he shows unnecessary impatience in ODIs. A few commentators have pointed out that he tries to play too many shots in one-day cricket at times. It is quite in contrast with his performance for the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League (IPL), where he seems more assured and calm.

While Rahane has had a few good knocks in ODIs over the last year, he has failed to convert his starts more consistently. A career average in the high 20s is proof of that fact as he tends to get in and get out. Being one of India’s frontline batsmen, he has to show more grit to make those scores count. It isn’t that he cannot do it; in Test cricket, he has shown good temperament to script a few big innings. His inability to carry on could have more implications if Dhawan fails in the longer run as India will have to fall back on Rahane to open the innings.

The batting has let India down during the first two ODIs in the tri-series and if they are to get back into contention for the final, they need an encore of their performance in the West Indies in 2013. Back in June-July 2013, India had lost the first two league games in the tri-series against West Indies and Sri Lanka. The batting then rose to the occasion, and helped India get through to the final. All is not lost for India in this series.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)