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Asian Games 2023

Asian Games 2023: Is Shikhar Dhawan’s exclusion the end of his India career or a surprise World Cup lifeline?

Shikhar Dhawan
by Naman Agarwal 4 minute read

India have announced their squad for the 2023 Asian Games, and Shikhar Dhawan, who was expected to lead the side, has not been named, giving rise to speculation about his international future.

Dhawan has been the go-to guy to lead second-string India sides in the last few years. With the 2023 Asian Games’ schedule clashing with the ODI World Cup, India have been forced to name a squad devoid of first-choice players for the former competition.

Dhawan was the expected candidate to lead India in the Asian Games, considering he has been displaced from the ODI side by Shubman Gill, whose meteoric rise as an ODI batter in the last year has made him undroppable.


However, he has not been named in the squad for the Asian Games, with Ruturaj Gaikwad being given the captaincy. This can either imply that the selectors still have him in mind for the World Cup, or that this might be the end of the road for him as far as international cricket is concerned.

Dhawan’s downturn

Dhawan last played an ODI in December 2022 against Bangladesh. In the three-match series, he scored 18 runs and never crossed ten. He is yet to play an ODI this year whereas Gill has taken the world by storm in ODI cricket, scoring 624 runs from nine games at an average of 78 and a strike rate of 117.5, including a double century against New Zealand.

In fact, Dhawan has been on a steady decline since 2022. He played 22 ODIs last year, which fetched him only 688 runs at an average of 34.4. Noticeably, his strike rate also dipped to 74.2, a far cry from his ODI career strike rate of 93.8 before 2022.

The rise of Gill and Kishan

Gill started his opening career in ODIs alongside Dhawan, the very man whom he has now replaced. These two combined to register three century opening partnerships from their first four instances of batting together. In fact, their overall opening partnership average stands at 76.2 from 11 innings.

However, as 2022 progressed, Gill got better and better as Dhawan’s returns dipped. By the end of the year, he had replaced the senior pro, and by the first quarter of 2023, he had firmly cemented his place at the top of the order.

With Rohit Sharma being a certainty as the other opener and as captain, Dhawan found himself out of favour and out of the Indian ODI side. Ishan Kishan’s ascendancy as the third opener didn’t help Dhawan’s cause either as India found the added dimension Kishan provided with his wicketkeeping too tempting.

Performance in ICC tournaments

When India toured Sri Lanka for an ODI and T20I series in July 2021 with a second-string team, Dhawan was handed the captaincy as he led a bunch of youngsters while the senior, first-choice players were in England for a Test series.

With the Asian Games schedule clashing with the 2023 ODI World Cup, Dhawan was similarly expected to lead another bunch of youngsters, this time in the Asian Games, who would not be in plans for the World Cup.

However, Dhawan’s non-selection for the Games implies that there might still be hope for him as far as the World Cup is concerned. The biggest factors going in his favour are the experience he brings to the table and his history of solid performances in ICC events.

Dhawan was the highest scorer for India in the 2013 Champions Trophy, the 2015 ODI World Cup, and the 2017 Champions Trophy. He got off to a good start in the 2019 ODI World Cup as well before a finger injury ruled him out of the tournament.

Potential fail-safe for injury-ridden middle order

Apart from his legacy as someone who ‘performs at the big stage’, another factor that the selectors might be considering is the number of injuries to first-choice middle-order batters.

Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, and Rishabh Pant – all three are currently injured. While Iyer and Rahul are expected to be back to match fitness soon, selectors perhaps don’t want to take risks, and rightly so.

The only two backup middle-order batters currently in the ODI setup are Sanju Samson and Suryakumar Yadav. Yadav has not impressed in the 50-over format so far. How does this all fit into Dhawan being in contention?

The selectors might be thinking of using Gill as a stop-gap middle-order solution in case the need arises, which opens up a slot at the top, paving the way for Dhawan. It’s a long shot, but if that’s the plan, it’s a far-sighted one, something that India missed in the 2019 World Cup with respect to their middle order.

Or maybe the end of the road?

Or the Asian Games snub might just be that – a snub. And potentially a final one at that. Dhawan has been playing only one format for the last two years now, and he’s found himself dropped from that as well. He hasn’t played international cricket this year. With the rise of youngsters like Gill, Kishan, Yashasvi Jaiswal, and Gaikwad, India now have loads of top-order batters to choose from in white-ball cricket. Whether Dhawan is still one of them or not may only truly be found when India announce their World Cup squad.

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