Shikhar Dhawan has added new gear to his T20 batting, as proven by his returns in the IPL, especially since halfway through the 2019 season. In IPL 2020, he was ESPNcricinfo’s top-notch on the Smart Runs chart, channeling alliance top-scorer, KL Rahul.
From the time his turnaround began in the IPL, with an unbeaten 63-ball unbeaten 97 against the Kolkata Knight Riders in the first half of IPL 2019, Dhawan has been a changed hitter also transformed with the experience he has. From that game onwards, he drove the IPL runs count, with 1367 runs in 35 matches, at an average of 45.56 and a striking pace of 141.95. Just AB de Villiers among the top 10 run-getters has a higher strike rate.
And yet, Dhawan would currently not find a spot in India’s first-choice T20I XI. The last time he played for India in the format was the first match of a five-game series against England, in March 2021. A poor outing yielded 4 off 12 and Dhawan was benched for the last four T20Is. With Virat Kohli opting to go up the order in the final game and indicating he was likely to continue his pairing with Rohit Sharma at the top, the other openers in the side will feel the squeeze of a space crunch, with at least four claimants for two spots now that Kohli is also eyeing opening.
In that circumstance, India’s forthcoming T20I series against Sri Lanka is of more prominent significance to Dhawan than typical. He is the captain of the side, obviously, however, he’ll need to lead the way in batting as well.
“It is vital. Obviously, any international match has its own impact, and at whatever point you perform internationally it has a gigantic impact,” Dhawan said on Saturday, the night before the first T20I. “So on a personal note, I’m truly anticipating performing here and making my place more grounded for World Cup contenders. Then, at that point, we’ll perceive how it goes later on.”
Dhawan, the captain too, has clear-cut goals for the series. India opted to blood new players in the third and final ODI, having won the first two and sealed the series. Dhawan indicated something similar could be on the cards in the T20Is.
“We have to win the series. In the last ODI, there was a good opportunity to give some youngsters a chance and give them a taste of international cricket, because we had already won the series,” Dhawan said. “We’ll of course go in with our best XI first. We’ll try to win the first two matches, and then according to the situation, we can experiment in the last game, if needed.
“If we win two matches, then we have options to play any combination we want to. Otherwise, our main goal is to play the best XI to win the series. That’s our first priority. After that, if we can seal it as we did in the ODIs, we can think of experimenting.”
Dhawan exuded confidence in his young side, who are much more familiar with high-intensity T20 cricket than one-dayers due to the IPL. He also pointed to Sri Lanka’s better showing in the second and third ODIs, and greater familiarity with the Indians on tour as factors that would make the T20Is a good contest.
“Obviously they are prepared, that is the reason they are here,” Dhawan said. “As you saw, youths have performed so well in the ODI series, so they’ll be taking that confidence ahead in the T20I series. You will see them perform truly well. Collectively, we have established an astonishing environment here. Truly anticipating doing great collectively. Not simply the youngsters, even the senior players are looking forward to it.
“I assume the competition will be tough. You saw the Sri Lankan team improve in the last two (ODI) matches. They played truly well and they are a decent team, with plenty of youngsters. We’ve both effectively played three matches now, so the two teams know each others’ strengths and weaknesses. That is something worth being thankful for, and it will add to the challenge for both of us in the upcoming T20 match.”