The independent voice of cricket

Indian Premier League 2023

‘Brainfade’ – Dhawan’s decision to bowl inexperienced left-arm spinner in the 20th over in Punjab Kings’ must-win clash backfires

by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

Shikhar Dhawan was criticised after left-arm spinner Harpreet Brar conceded 23 runs in the 20th over in Punjab Kings’ must-win game, against Delhi Capitals.

Dhawan asked Brar to bowl despite the availability of Kagiso Rabada and Arshdeep Singh. His over helped take Delhi past the 200-run mark, as they ended with 213-2. Punjab eventually lost by 15 runs.

Delhi Capitals got off to a blazing start, reaching 93-0 in 10 overs, and improved on that, making 120 in the next ten, 41 of these coming in the last two overs.


Rilee Rossouw smashed two sixes and a boundary against Nathan Ellis in the 19th over before taking on Brar. He started with a six over deep mid-wicket, then smashed a four. Brar bowled a wide, and Rossouw hit the third legal delivery for a six as well.

Another wide followed, and Rossouw ended the innings with another four as Delhi raced to 213-2 – their first 200-plus total for in IPL 2023. Rossouw remained unbeaten on 82 off just 37 balls.

The decision to bowl Brar in the crucial over instead of death-over specialists Arshdeep and Rabada has come under scanner. On air, Chris Gayle called the move a “big blunder”.

Rossouw has a strike rate of 157 against left-arm spin, and unsurprisingly took on Brar. There was also dew in Dharamsala, making it difficult for the spinners to grip the ball.

What was even more baffling was that Arshdeep and Rabada had not yet completed their quota of overs. Though the duo had been expensive (Arshdeep conceded 21 in two overs and Rabada 36 in three), they are vastly experienced in the role. Brar, on the other hand, had given 16 in his first two overs but had previously bowled the 20th over only twice in all T20s.

Rabada has an economy rate of 8.18 in the death in the IPL. His 41 wickets have come at an average of 19.95, while Rabada’s average reads 14.73. In the Delhi match, neither bowled a single over in the last five as Ellis and Brar being given the responsibility. Until last night, Brar had only bowled 7.5 overs in the death before today in the IPL.

Arshdeep has also dismissed Rossouw thrice in five balls in T20s, and would arguably have been the better option than Rabada, who has never dismissed him. However, Rabada would have been privy to his countryman’s strengths and weaknesses.

Before the game against Delhi, Brar had picked up nine wickets in the tournament with an economy rate of 8.02. He was often called upon by Dhawan to break important partnerships.

He had dismissed Virat Kohli and Glenn Maxwell in successive deliveries earlier this season, with his slower deliveries proving to be effective in the middle overs.

In the previous match between the two sides, he had run through the Delhi middle order, but the decision to use him on a wicket that had little help made little sense. He was also bowling to a batter against whom he had an unfavourable match-up.

Dhawan later admitted to his error: “I fell my decision to bowl spin in the last over backfired. The momentum also went there. Before that, my fast bowler got hit for 18-20 runs. Those two overs cost us the game.”

In a must-win game, Dhawan faltered with his tactic and made bizarre bowling changes, which proved to be the difference in the end as Punjab are all but out of the edition.

To bet on the IPL with our Match Centre partners bet365, head here.

Have Your Say

Become a Wisden member

  • Exclusive offers and competitions
  • Money-can’t-buy experiences
  • Join the Wisden community
  • Sign up for free
Latest magazine

Get the magazine

12 Issues for just £39.99