In Ravi Shastri's words, the current Team India wishes to be the best travelling side. Needless to say that with such expectations and ambitions, the openers are the ones who have to shoulder the major burden of the task at hand. And rightly so. They are the first ones to have a taste of the conditions, assessing the opposition and applying themselves for as much as they can, making it easier for the ones to follow. Shikhar Dhawan, the Indian opener, unfortunately doesn't fit the bill here.
The numbers do throw some light on this thought, and for the ones who do not seem convinced enough, the manner of his dismissals in the current Test series will probably put the doubts at bay. In the eight innings he has played so far in England, he has scored 162 runs at a miserly average of 20.25. He was dropped for the Lord's Test but made his way back into the squad. Barring his century against an inexperienced Afghanistan side in home conditions, his last Test century came in August 2017 against Sri Lanka. Incidentally, his last Test fifty also came against the same opposition, albeit in a home series in December 2017.
An upright stance that comes hard at the ball often pushing it towards the slips, or edging it to the wicket-keeper has been a major reason for the dip in his form. The seaming and swinging conditions have often found him wanting at the crease. Also, his ability to adjust according to the line and length of the ball has not been that great lately. On numerous occasions, he has failed while trying to play across the line, and his dismissals in both the innings in the final Test against England bear a testimony to that. These factors combined have not augured well for him at the top of the order. Even the experts have had their say on his technique which seems to be least suited for the longest format, and needs to be reworked a lot. The red-ball format is surely not bringing out his best and it seems imperative for Team India to try out other options.
Initially, Dhawan had announced himself into the Test arena with a magnificent 187 on debut against the visiting Australians back in 2013. However, his Test record has not been that consistent and the current phase is something that he should be really worried about. The manner in which he is getting out seems to be irresponsible and lack of application is the only conclusion one can derive out of it. Though skipper Virat Kohli has backed him so far, it remains to be seen how his performances go from here onwards.
With Murali Vijay having already faced the axe and Dhawan doing very little to cement his place, the selectors have made it clear that they are looking to breed in fresh talent at the top of the order. This is how young Prithvi Shaw made his way into the Test squad for the final two Tests against England, although he did not land up with a game. With the home series against West Indies and an away one in Australia at the end of the year, there is every possibility that Shaw might just sneak in at the expense of Dhawan, and rightly so.
Only a miracle can get Dhawan back on board now.