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ICC World Cup 2019: Shikhar Dhawan injury leaves India camp in a quandary

Sources say that Rishabh Pant will be flown in on the earliest possible flight to England as a cover for Shikhar Dhawan, but won’t yet be named as a replacement.

cricket Updated: Jun 12, 2019 07:57 IST
ICC World Cup 2019,Shikhar Dhawan,Team India
File image of Shikhar Dhawan.(Action Images via Reuters)

“The team management has decided that Shikhar Dhawan will continue to be in England and his progress will be monitored” was the only official update on the opening batsman’s injury from the Indian camp on Tuesday. The statement did not reveal the nature of the injury or the result of the scan he had undergone earlier in the day in Leeds. Equally ambiguous were the source-based reports of just how long Dhawan is expected to be ruled out of action—some claimed two matches and others supposed three weeks.

Facts about possibly the most important thumb in Nottingham were few and far between two days before India take on New Zealand at Trent Bridge. But what wasn’t vague was how the damage was caused and the extent of chaos it is about to cause in the Indian dressing room as this young World Cup gets older.

During India’s second game of the campaign, against Australia at the Oval on Sunday, Pat Cummins ran in to commence the ninth over of the innings and the match. First ball, the ball shot up from a good length and smacked an evasive Dhawan in the gloves. If he knew it was bad instantly then Dhawan did well not to show it. Next ball he took a single and only then did Dhawan signal to the dressing room that his hand needed attention.

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A ball later, Dhawan’s thumb was cared for by Patrick Farhart, India’s experienced physio. But as soon as Farhart exited the field, Dhawan was wincing in pain again as he took his left hand off the bat handle to work the ball for a run. Farhart was back on the field and opened a can of magic spray. It worked, for Dhawan scored 93 runs after first sustaining his injury. But when he didn’t take the field for the entirety of India’s bowling innings, Dhawan had in turn opened for his management a can of worms.

The conundrum in the Indian dressing room is easy enough to spot but terribly hard to diagnose. If India names a replacement for Dhawan then he cannot participate in this World Cup even after his thumb recovers (unless someone else gets injured) and that, of course, is a dent to India’s key strengths in this World Cup: a stable opening pair. Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have after all opened for India in every ICC major since the 2013 Champions Trophy. And this is a big reason why they are the first two centurions for India in the World Cup and why the team have convincingly won both their matches so far.

But the consequences of not naming a timely replacement could be just as ruinous for India’s middle-order. During the warm-ups, India found an eleventh-hour solution to their long-running No.4 problem in KL Rahul. An opener by profession, Rahul will now be asked to fill in for Dhawan at the top. But then the only available replacement in India’s present squad to fill Rahul’s void in the middle is Vijay Shankar, who at the international level has not played too many matches, and none of them higher than No.5 in the batting order.

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The second scenario could get even more catastrophic if Dhawan doesn’t heal soon enough. If no replacement is named in the current hope that Dhawan recovers by the end of the group stages and he doesn’t, India’s most reliable match winner Virat Kohli will bear the brunt of it—he will then be sandwiched between an unstable middle-order below him and a relatively inexperienced opening pair above.

The Indian team management, however, has apparently come up with the best solution to a nasty problem. Sources say that Rishabh Pant will be flown in on the earliest possible flight to England as a cover for Dhawan, but won’t yet be named as a replacement. Pant will be on stand-by as the medical team keeps Dhawan under observation. If he shows signs of recovery, Pant will be just another Indian who came to England to watch the World Cup.

It isn’t an ideal scenario but it is the only way to keep the door ajar on both a possible recovery and a timely replacement. Mick Jagger, who incidentally watched Dhawan cop the blow from a suite in the Oval, once summed up India’s current predicament perfectly in a Rolling Stones song with these words—“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime you might find, you get what you need.”

First Published: Jun 11, 2019 23:31 IST