Since the upsurge of one-day games in the 1990s, India has produced some of the best ODI openers of all time. From the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag, to the present day opening duo of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, Indian cricket has always been blessed with excellent openers. However, when it comes to ICC ODI events, India has produced only a few have who have excelled in big games.
The current Indian openers are among the best in the world. Their consistent run-scoring ability has stunned everyone. They have managed to perform both at overseas and in home conditions with the same intent. There is never an indication of a lack of self-belief and that is a great quality to have as an opening pair.
Both Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are excellent ODI players in their own right and there is not much to separate between them. Rohit started much earlier than Dhawan, but their careers started booming when they began opening as a pair for India.
India has performed exceptionally well in the three ICC ODI tournaments held after the World Cup 2011 in this decade so far, and it has been mainly because of the consistent performances from the openers.
Rohit and Dhawan have been the top two run scorers for their team in all the three ICC ODI events held in last 8 years. Due to their consistent solid opening partnerships, India won the Champions Trophy in 2013, reached the semifinals of World Cup 2015 and narrowly missed out on winning the Champions Trophy for the second time in 2017.
But when we go through the record books, it is found that Dhawan has been more effective and consistent with his run-scoring in big events. In 115 one-day games that Shikhar has played for India, he has scored 4935 runs at an impressive average of 45.69 and a brilliant strike rate of 94.29, garnished with 15 stylish centuries and 25 quickfire half-centuries.
Let us go deep into some of the stats which shows the importance of having Shikhar Dhawan in the team and why he will be India's go-to man in the upcoming edition of the World Cup.
#1 ICC Champions Trophy 2013
Strike rate: 101.39
Highest score: 114
Dhawan performed to his full potential in 2013 as he truly became an important part of India's limited overs team with some consistent performances. The Delhi lad was relentless in scoring runs as he became a top run scorer for India in ODIs in that calendar year.
Dhawan stunned everyone with his technique and ability to adapt to conditions after he became the highest run scorer in ICC Champions Trophy held in England. Nobody had expected Dhawan to score runs the way he did. He literally bashed the opposition bowling attacks.
He hit a century (114) against South Africa whose attack consisted of the likes of Steyn and Morkel. He hit yet another century (102) in London against the Windies. His scores of 48 and 68 helped India reach the finals, and despite some weather troubles, he scored a quick-fire 31 off 24 balls in the rain-curtailed 20 overs match in the final. He won the much deserved golden bat for scoring 363 runs at a Bradmanesque average of 90.75.
His technique was considered to be suitable for Indian pitches only, but the way he played in those seaming English conditions, he showed that he could score anywhere in the world in ODIs.
#2 ICC World Cup 2015
Strike rate: 91.76
Highest score: 137
The year 2013 was a great year for Shikhar Dhawan in terms of the number of runs scored in the shorter formats. However, much to his disappointment, he could not continue his form in 2014. He failed miserably against England in the Test series where his highest score was 37 in 6 innings, and then he only managed to score a single 50+ score in the Test series in Australia.
But despite all odds, he started 2015 ICC World Cup in tremendous fashion as he scored skilful 72 against Pakistan and a match-defining 137 at MCG against South Africa. He then scored a quickfire 100 against Ireland. In the semifinal, he scored 30 runs and helped India get a good start, but that wasn't meant to be India's day as the middle order collapsed without putting up any fight.
He missed out on a few opportunities against the likes of UAE, Zimbabwe and others, but still managed to score 412 runs in that tournament. He was the highest run-getter for India in the tournament.
#3 ICC Champions Trophy 2017
Strike rate: 101.81
Highest score: 125
The 2017 ICC Champions Trophy was some kind of deja vu for all the Indian fans and to Shikhar Dhawan himself to some extent, as he managed to repeat his 2013 edition's great run of form once again.
The southpaw started off with a good knock of 68 against arch-rivals Pakistan. The innings was followed it up with a brilliant 125 in a losing cause against Sri Lanka. He once again tormented South Africa with a match-winning 78 against the likes of Rabada, Morkel and Morris. He managed to play an important role in the semifinal against Bangladesh with a quick-fire knock of 46 runs.
Dhawan failed for once in the final against the arch-rivals Pakistan. He could not take his team home this time, but achieved a rare feat of becoming the only batsman to win back to back golden bat for topping the run-scorers list in the tournament.
His ability to perform at the highest level with ease has made him one of the most trustworthy batsmen in this current Indian side. Being an opener, the way in which he has performed in England in ICC events and set the tone at the top, he surely is going to be India's 'go-to' man in the upcoming edition of the World Cup.
Shikhar Dhawan is compared with Sehwag most of the time for his swagger and carelessness about the game, but the fact is, Dhawan has performed much better than Sehwag in major ICC ODI events so far. The Indian skipper Virat Kohli will be hoping for fireworks in 2019 World Cup from this moustache twirling Gabbar!