If there was one missing piece in India's T20 jigsaw puzzle, it was Shikhar Dhawan's utility. His turning the corner is India's biggest gain from the series vs Sri Lanka, writes Aakash Chopra
Who will partner Rohit Sharma at the top? Will Shikhar Dhawan manage to fulfill that role in T20 too? While Dhawan's ODI numbers are enviable, his T20 numbers aren't very impressive. And if there was one missing piece in India's T20 jigsaw puzzle, it was his utility or the lack of it. That's why Dhawan turning the corner is the biggest gain from the three-match T20 series against Sri Lanka.
Shikhar Dhawan in top gear during the Ranchi T20 international against Sri Lanka last week. Pic/AFP
Dhawan has got some crucial runs and more importantly, the way he got them will give India a lot of assurance. Before the T20s against Australia last month, his T20 strike-rate was 96 in the power play overs, which is unacceptable for an opener in this format. But by the time he finished the series against Lanka, it shot up to 150. This is the strongest Indian T20 batting line-up for a very long time.
No more a problem
The form of Rohit, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina allows everyone else to play fearlessly, for lasting 20 overs is never in doubt. That's where Dhawan's low strike-rate was a potential problem but, fortunately, it isn't anymore. While we know that Dhawan was the biggest gain, we must also look at what did India try to achieve in this series and how it fared in the process.
The objective of this short T20 series was twofold: One, to define roles for all players; they must know where to bat and bowl, and how. Two, get players like Yuvraj in form and also, give some match-time to fringe players like Pandya and Negi. For me, the second aspect was the top priority because form is critical to T20 success.
It's imperative to have everyone in top form, for there's hardly any time in T20 to find form. Also, you can play fearlessly only if you have runs/wickets under your belt. And the only way to ensure that people find form is by tinkering with the batting order and shuffling the playing XI.
Dhoni did that with Pandya in Ranchi and it paid dividends. The way match panned out in Pune, it happened by default for Yuvraj. Now that Yuvraj Singh is back in the side, it's important to find out if he is really back as the match-winner that we all know him to be. The jury was out on this, post the three T20s against Australia and, unfortunately, it's still out after the series against Sri Lanka.
The Asia Cup will provide one last opportunity for MS Dhoni to find that out.As far as the bowling department is concerned, it will continue to do the job if the pitches behave the way they did in this series. The Indian bowling is ideal for a pitch that offers a bit of spin, for that not only makes R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja into match-winners but also gives plenty of options to Dhoni. On such pitches, Yuvraj and Raina are more than capable bowlers to pitch in with a few overs each. India's pace resources are thin and therefore it's critical to keep Bumrah in form and Nehra fit.
Even though India comfortably won the series, it also provided a great lesson. The first match in Pune was an eye-opener of sorts, for the Indian batting line-up faltered on a pitch that offered seam and swing to the faster bowlers.
The problem wasn't so much about the technique to handle seam-swing but their ability to adapt to a new situation. A red flag should've gone up the moment India lost a couple of quick wickets but that didn't happen. Indian batsmen continued to bat as if it was one of the flattest pitches, which it clearly wasn't. 32 for two soon turned to 55 for seven something that shouldn't have happened. India would be wiser after that one-off debacle.
Number of runs Shikhar Dhawan scored in three games against Sri Lanka