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Shikhar Dhawan ruled out of World Cup, Rishabh Pant named replacement

Shikhar Dhawan has been ruled out of Team India’s ICC World Cup campaign due to the thumb injury sustained during the match against Australia and wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant has been named as his replacement in the squad.

cricket Updated: Jun 19, 2019 21:22 IST
Shikhar Dhawan,Rishabh Pant,Dhawan injury
File image of India opener Shikhar Dhawan.(Action Images via Reuters)

Shikhar Dhawan was formally ruled out of the World Cup on Wednesday, exactly 10 days after the Indian opener was hit on his left hand by a Pat Cummins delivery during India’s match against Australia. Rishabh Pant, who was immediately brought to England as a back-up while the Indian team management waited thumb and foot on Dhawan to recover, has now been named as Dhawan’s replacement in India’s 15-man squad. ((ICC World Cup 2019: Full Coverage))

While batting coach Sanjay Bangar had then stated that the team was willing to give Dhawan a recovery time of “three to four games” before taking a call on him, the announcement was made just two matches after the one against Australia, where Dhawan had scored the bulk of his match-winning hundred after sustaining the blow. The decision to send him back home, said team manager Sunil Subramaniam, was taken after they were told by multiple specialists in England that his left hand would remain in a cast until the end of the World Cup in mid-July.

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“Shikhar has a fracture on the base of his first metacarpal on his left hand. Now, following several specialist opinions, he will remain in a cast until the middle of July, which rules him out of the ICC World Cup of 2019,” Subramaniam said here at the Rose Bowl, after India’s first practice session in two days. “We’ve written to the ICC and have requested for Rishabh Pant as his replacement.”

The Indian team was found in groups of threes and fours and discussing the loss of Dhawan minutes before the announcement was made, while Dhawan himself was in the balcony of the dressing room, a white cast wrapped around his left hand and his right hand pressing a phone to his ear. Despite the cast, Dhawan had carried drinks for the team in the Pakistan game in Manchester, and that sadly will be his last involvement with the side at this World Cup.

WATCH | Injured Shikhar Dhawan ruled out of World Cup, Rishabh Pant replaces him

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This, of course, is a massive loss for the Indian team, what with Dhawan having a knack of scoring big runs consistently in big events. This isn’t just a perception and can be backed up by numbers: in India’s last five ODI tournaments involving five or more teams—Asia Cup 2018, Champions Trophy 2017, World Cup 2015, Asia Cup 2014 and the Champions Trophy in 2013— Dhawan has been the side’s top run-getter.

But his replacement at the top, KL Rahul, did prove in the game against Pakistan that he too could give India the starts they are looking for, after Rahul and Rohit Sharma put on a 136-run opening stand. An opener by profession, Rahul had come in to this World Cup with the unenviable task of solving India’s age-old No 4 problem; which he did at the eleventh hour with a hundred in India’s final warm-up game against Bangladesh.

Also Read: Shikhar Dhawan ruled out of ICC World Cup: How will it impact Team India?

While Rahul could easily slip back into his old opening role against Pakistan (he scored 57 fluid runs), the middle-order once again suffered without him, as MS Dhoni, Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav were unable to give India the push they needed during the death overs.

The option of filling that middle-order void with a player of Pant’s calibre, then, is an undisguised blessing. A wicketkeeper with supreme batting abilities, 21-year-old Pant has already sealed his spot in India’s Test team, cracking two hundreds and two nineties in his first 15 innings. However, his initiation into ODI cricket hasn’t gone according to plan so far, with no scores of above 36 from his four outings in the format.

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Many pundits and former cricketers (some vocally, such as Kevin Pietersen) felt that despite the poor start to his ODI career, Pant should still have been picked in India’s original World Cup squad, based simply on his destructive power, batting potential and his promise. Now, Pant has his chance to make good on that promise and show the selectors just what they would’ve missed out on had Dhawan not been ruled out due to an unfortunate injury.

First Published: Jun 19, 2019 16:38 IST