India batsman Shikhar Dhawan and South Africa pacer Dale Steyn have followed a similar route the past couple of weeks. Despite being touted as match winners, both had a slump in form during the recent World Twenty20, and were dropped from the XI.
In Dhawan’s case, lack of form continued in the IPL. In the first three games, he scored just 16 runs for Sunrisers Hyderabad. Steyn, on the other hand, remained on the bench for the Gujarat Lions.
On Thursday, both got a chance to spend some time in the middle. While Dhawan scored an unbeaten 53, Steyn showed glimpses of his fiery self, finishing with figures of 2 for 17. This was Steyn’s first IPL game of the season after spending three matches on the bench.
He bowled just two overs but consistently breached the 140kph mark. However, with Gujarat defending a modest 135, setting fields for wicket-taking deliveries became harder. Captain Suresh Raina delayed Steyn’s second spell, instead choosing to let the spinners have a go at David Warner and Dhawan, who gave their side a 10-wicket victory.
Dhawan was desperate for the knock. He began tentatively, letting Warner take the lead. The low total and Warner’s control over proceedings helped Dhawan settle down and bat confidently. The only time the two were circumspect was during Steyn’s opening spell.
Both players had spoken of lack of form after the conclusion of the WT20. Dhawan had taken to social media and admitted his batting let him down. Steyn, in a newspaper column, felt his omission was not a reflection of how he was bowling.
Both still have some work to do before they can shake off the out-of-form tag. Dhawan’s 50 came when the pressure was low and a confident Warner was going great guns at the other end. Steyn, while bowling well, did not manage a breakthrough.
However, it was a step in the right direction and raises hope of better performances from the two in the games to come.