Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar has questioned the team management’s decision to drop opener Shikhar Dhawan for the second Test against England at Lord’s. Gavaskar asked what the “criteria” for dropping Dhawan were, when the left-hander had made nearly as many runs as M Vijay and KL Rahul combined in the first Test at Edgbaston, which India lost by 31 runs.
In the first Test, Dhawan made 39 runs across two innings, while Vijay and Rahul, who comprised the rest of the Indian top order, scored 46 between them. On Friday, India made two changes, replacing Dhawan with Cheteshwar Pujara and bringing in a second spinner in Kuldeep Yadav at the expense of the third seamer Umesh Yadav. Kohli did not provide any reasons behind those two changes.
Gavaskar did not agree with the decision to drop Dhawan. “My point about Dhawan is that he is always dropped after one Test,” Gavaskar told Mumbai Mirror. “Others get another opportunity. He should have also got a second chance. If you look at the scores in the first Test, he scored more runs than Murali Vijay and KL Rahul. So, what is the criteria?”
Dhawan has been dropped on previous overseas tours too. On the last trip to England in 2014, Dhawan missed the final two Tests, after opening in the first three. He then missed the final Test of the four-match series on the 2014-15 Australia tour. Then, during the South Africa tour this January, Dhawan was left out for the final two Tests, having played the opening match in Cape Town.
Gavaskar pointed out Dhawan batting left-handed gave India’s line-up variety. He also felt the think-tank ought to have played a sixth specialist batsman instead of fielding four bowlers and Hardik Pandya operating as a batting allrounder. “It (selection) should be according to the pitch. It should be six batsmen where you don’t know what the opposition has in store for you.
“He [Dhawan] is a left-hander. If he was a right-hander, I can understand that you want to go with the younger option of Rahul. He should have been retained and the team should have strengthened the batting. In Australia, South Africa and England, you need to go with six batsmen in the first Test.”
This is the second time in the last week that Gavaskar has questioned India’s decision-making. Earlier this week, he had been critical of India’s lack of preparation with the Duke ball, having played just a single three-day practice match before the Test series.
On Friday, after being put in to bat on a dank morning, India were immediately in deep trouble at 15 for 3 with Vijay, Rahul and Pujara back in the pavilion. It did not help that conditions were ripe for swing bowling and India folded for just 107.
To adapt to overseas conditions, Gavaskar said the key element was temperament, something he said only Kohli had so far shown. Ajinkya Rahane, India’s vice-captain, seemed to have agreed, but said it would be “harsh” to say too much when the conditions favoured the fast bowlers to this extent.
Rahane said facing someone like James Anderson in swinging conditions needed a lot of discipline. “He [Anderson] didn’t bowl one short ball. He was just bowling there and there – four-five metre length. And that is really crucial on this wicket. If you’re bowling that length, you’ve got to bowl consistently. Then as a batsman, you have to leave the ball or you’ve to back your methods consistently. You cannot think that if you play three maiden overs, you’ve got to be ready to play another three maiden overs after that. It’s all about patience in these conditions and trusting your methods and backing your ability.”
Rahane said the batsmen would need to adapt quickly and learn from their opponents. “You have to conquer every situation, you have to be positive in every situation. Maybe we will need to learn from their batting unit how they bat in such conditions, which shots are important, which shots you can play. Many times in England you cannot only stay defensive. You need to understand which shots you can play, maybe the cut shot or the late cut. The earlier you learn all that, the better it would be for you.”
Asked to explain the reason behind India going with a second spinner when conditions were more in favour of seam bowling, Rahane suggested it was Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri‘s decision to go with Kuldeep. “It’s about what captain and coach think. In the end, it’s the captain’s decision and I felt Virat was backing Kuldeep,” Rahane said. “We’ll have to wait and see. Because of the conditions, definitely yeah, it helped fast bowler(s). But Kuldeep is a quality bowler. Umesh bowled really well, but it’s about the combination and it’s about what captain and coach think.”