Shikhar Dhawan who went to England a couple of months ago in a decent form, had a grinding tour, managing to cross the 50-run mark just once in 15 innings – a 74 run knock which came against Ireland leading up to the main series. The returns were distressing, especially in the longest format of the game where the southpaw managed only 162 runs in 8 innings at an average of 162 runs. The manner in which he got out was even more concerning for the selectors, raising serious questions over his poor technique in testing conditions.
A week after England disappointment, India landed in UAE for the Asia Cup. The format changed, the conditions changed and so did Dhawan’s fortunes. The southpaw is the leading run-scorer of the tournament so far with 327 runs to his name in four matches at an impressive average of 81.75 and overwhelming strike-rate of 101.87 in conditions where most batsmen have struggled to keep up with the required scoring rate.
The performance has helped India earn a spot in the final but has left the national selectors with a tough decision to make when they sit to select the team for the two Tests against Windies in October. The selectors might be tempted to select Dhawan on his current form and the fact that these matches will be held in India at Rajkot (October 4-8) and Hyderabad (October 12-16).
The complication is that these are the only Tests India play before this year’s long tour Down Under where it will face Australia in a four-match Test series. KL Rahul’s century against England in the last Test of the series and Virat Kohli’s affection for him, should guarantee the Karnataka batsman a seat on the plane to Australia. But, with Murali Vijay dropped from the squad recently, selectors face the tough task of selecting his partner.
If he is selected, chances are that Dhawan may tear apart a not-so-impressive looking Windies bowling attack led by Shannon Gabriel. But, does that mean he wouldn’t be a ‘walking wicket’ against the likes of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood in Australia? Unlikely.
Young Prithvi Shaw was selected in the squad for the final two Tests against England – a sign that selectors back him to be the future opener for India. But, the question is – How far is that future? To quote a famous Hollywood flick – “The Future is Now.”
The 17-year-old Mumbai opener has smashed 1418 runs in 14 first-class matches at an average of 56.72 with the help of 7 centuries and 5 fifties. The youngster had a great England tour with India A side and recently smashed his maiden List A century for Mumbai. It would be madness to throw Shaw directly at the international stage against the mighty Aussies at their home and the youngster can benefit from a couple of outings against Windies.
Another lucrative option is Mayank Agarwal who has done everything possible to earn an India call-up. The Karnataka opener had an outstanding domestic season last-year, scoring over 1000 runs just on the month of November and followed it with good performances with India A.
The team will be selected after a two-day warm-up match between Windies and Board President’s XI (featuring both Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal) in Baroda which will give batsmen another chance to impress the selectors.
Ishant Sharma and R Ashwin, who will undergo fitness tests on Sunday, will be other talking points at the selection committee meeting. Hardik Pandya’s injury at the ongoing Asia Cup would make the job tougher. But then, who said selecting the Indian team was an easy job?