KL Rahul stepped admirably into Shikhar Dhawan’s shoes in the match against Pakistan, but losing one of the most productive opening partnerships in limited-overs cricket can’t be a positive development for any side.
Dhawan was part of a prolific top order — also including Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli — that was instrumental in India’s recent dominance in the 50-over format. At least one of them is invariably among the runs when India wins or puts up a sizeable score.
Rahul came up with a hard-fought 57 in the last match and put on 136 with Sharma, but the Karnataka batsman gave himself only six out of 10 for the performance and hoped to get better going ahead.
Not that Dhawan was in shabby form before breaking his thumb, which would keep his arm in a cast till mid-July, according to team’s administrative manager Sunil Subramanium. He himself hit a match-defining hundred against Australia and had a century partnership with Sharma, with whom he joined forces six years ago. Add to the fact that a left-right opening combination put bowlers under pressure.
I feel emotional to announce that I will no longer be a part of #CWC19. Unfortunately, the thumb won’t recover on time. But the show must go on.. I’m grateful for all the love & support from my team mates, cricket lovers & our entire nation. Jai Hind!🙏 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/zx8Ihm3051
— Shikhar Dhawan (@SDhawan25) June 19, 2019
Over the years, Sharma and Dhawan have gelled into a formidable partnership and bring out the best in each other. When one of them is going well as the top of the order, the other one feeds him the strike taking a backseat.
Rishabh Pant, drafted in as Dhawan’s replacement in the squad, may not get into the playing XI anytime soon. But it will necessitate either Vijay Shankar or Hardik Pandya to bat at number four with the other coming in the late middle order. Pant had an impressive Indian Premier League season, but it would be unfair to expect him to perform under World Cup pressure without a decent outing for more than a month. In any case, he has an ODI experience of just five matches. If anything, Dhawan’s injury might open up a spot for Dinesh Karthik in the team.
With even Bhuvneshwar Kumar out for the time being with a hamstring niggle, India probably didn’t want to be left with 13 fit players ahead of the match against Afghanistan on Saturday. With Kedar Jadhav having returned only recently from a shoulder injury, there was no need to take any chances.