Dhawan’s window of opportunity

Shikhar Dhawan has been subject to massive expectations, ever since he was Player of the Tournament at the 2004 U-19 World Cup. At 27, however, the left-handed Delhi opener has played five ODIs and no Tests.

But it's clear that the selectors still have a watchful eye trained on him. They have named Dhawan in the Rest of India squad for the Irani Cup, and chosen him to lead India A against the touring Australians.

When the Test series begins in Chennai, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir will probably remain India's first-choice opening pair. But with both facing questions over their form, the third opener in the squad could find himself winning a place in the eleven at some point during the series.

Murali Vijay occupied that slot during the Test series against England, but his form, leading into the Australia series, hasn't been encouraging — with a highest score of just 42 in five Ranji matches this season. His Tamil Nadu opening partner Abhinav Mukund — who will lead the Board President's XI in the other tour game — has fared only slightly better, with only three fifties and no hundreds in eight Ranji games. Both Vijay and Mukund have had opportunities in Tests before, but neither made a particularly convincing case to be considered the first-choice third-choice Test opener.

Dhawan has shown much better form over the domestic season, with 461 Ranji runs at 51.22, including two centuries, and a sparkling knock of 110 in a limited-overs warm-up game against an England XI. With this in mind, and given the fact that he has two opportunities to present his case over the next few weeks, Dhawan might well have his best chance now. He hasn't used his chances particularly well in the past — as an average of 13.80 from his five ODIs might show — but he will do well to grab this one.

... contd.

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