Rohit Sharma suffered a hamstring injury that could put him in doubt for the ICC World Cup 2015 © Getty Images

Perth: Gearing up for a virtual semifinal against England on January 30, the Indian cricket team will keep a keen eye on the progress of batsman Rohit Sharma, who continues to nurse a sore hamstring. With two losses and a wash-out, India have their back against the wall in the ongoing ODI tri-series against Australia and England.

Rohit’s injury has affected the batting order a bit with Ajinkya Rahane not finding time to settle at number three, the new strategy when Rohit opens with Shikhar Dhawan. Ambati Rayudu has been batting at three with Rahane opening the innings then, and the Hyderabad batsman has been all at sea so far. The latest information from the Indian team regarding Rohit is that while his injury is not threatening his World Cup participation, he is building back slowly to full fitness.

The batsman had a net session in Sydney while India took on Australia in the rain-curtailed game on January 26 and could be available as soon as January 30. However it remains to be seen if he will be straight-away thrown into the deep end, considering that Dhawan has been struggling for runs. The problem herein for the team management is that both Rohit and Rahane can open the innings as well as bat lower down the order as per the situation demands.

Dhawan has only been known to open the innings throughout his career and has been given quite a free run at the top of the order ever since the Men in Blue started preparing for this upcoming World Cup. Dhawan enjoyed a brilliant outing in the 2013 Champions Trophy in England, scoring back-to-back hundreds that helped him accumulate 363 runs in just five matches at an average of 90.75. He won the man-of-the-tournament award back then, but ever since it has been downhill.

If the tour to Zimbabwe in mid-2013 is taken out, then, in 17 ODI innings in West Indies, South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia, he has scored only 386 runs at an average 24.12. In this interim, he has only scored two half-centuries against proper opposition (ignoring the hundred scored in Zimbabwe again), one in Port of Spain in July 2013 and the other in Birmingham on the English tour, the two knocks separated by more than a year.

It isn’t that Dhawan hasn’t warranted his place in the World Cup squad. If the tri-series is forgotten, then in his previous ten innings, the left-handed opener has scored 518 runs at an average of 57.55, with one hundred and four fifties, higher than his career-average of 43.59. If this record is split into home and away, then, in six innings at home, he has scored 387 runs at 64.50, with a hundred and three fifties included. Meanwhile in four innings overseas, he has scored 131 runs, 97 of which came in that single unbeaten knock at Birmingham.

Clearly his away-record is troublesome at best, even in Test cricket. He was dropped midway through the Test series in England, making way for Gautam Gambhir after the third match. In Australia too, KL Rahul was picked ahead of him in the fourth match. In these seven matches put together he has scored only one fifty. The problem for Dhawan is deep-rooted, as his Sunrisers Hyderabad coach Tom Moody had told PTI during the Test series.

“His patchy form is to do with doubts about where his off-stump is. In overseas conditions you need to be very sure of that. He shouldn’t be encouraged to change his batting approach to come out of this poor run. Instead he is someone to be persisted with. With his attacking play, he can take the game away from the opposition very quickly and you need such players in Australia and New Zealand. It is important that he shouldn’t lose his free-style hitting approach,” he had said.

It is something that Indian skipper MS Dhoni agrees with whole-heartedly. “Sometimes when you are not scoring runs, the best thing to do is just go out and express yourself. That’s what Adam Gilchrist used to do very well. When he was slightly out of form, he used to play his shots. But when he was totally out of form, he would play his shots from the very first ball. It often helps, not thinking too much, just watching the ball and playing your shots,” Dhoni had said in Brisbane, after India’s nine-wicket loss to England.

From here onwards, it remains to be seen whether Dhawan will be afforded the time to erase this flaw that has crept into his batting, and given the license to hit out against the bowling.