It does not happen very often that the highest scorer of a match not only ends up on the losing side but may have also, inadvertently, contributed to his team’s loss.
That is exactly what happened with Shikhar Dhawan at the Ferozshah Kotla in Delhi on Tuesday.
Dhawan was the highest scorer of the match – he made 51 but Delhi Capitals were beaten comprehensively by 6 wickets (with 2 balls to spare) in a solid all-round display by the defending champions, Chennai Super Kings.
Delhi did not have enough runs on the board, according to their skipper Shreyas Iyer and Dhawan's slow-paced innings could well be one of the reasons for that.
The southpaw had a tentative start and got off the mark with a thick outside edge to third man of the bowling of Deepak Chahar. He registered just two more boundaries and played out as many as 10 dot balls and could muster just 16 off 17 deliveries in the powerplay.
Delhi managed just 43 in the first six overs – though there were signs of it being a slow two-paced wicket, there wasn’t enough initiative shown at the top. The start was defensive and approach a bit too cautious.
The tempo did not change thereafter either. In fact, the run-rate dipped further. Delhi added just 27 runs in the next 5 overs to crawl to 70 for 1 after 11. Dhawan had faced 14 more deliveries and scored just 9 more runs in this period – he did not hit a single boundary in this phase.
These were strange tactics by Delhi. Neither had they lost early wickets nor was the wicket so difficult to bat on. Moreover, they were setting a target and keeping that in mind this ‘lack of an aggressive approach’ at the top was baffling!
There was too much pressure being put on the likes of Rishabh Pant and Colin Ingram batting at 4 and 5 respectively.
Though Dhawan did try and up the ante and struck 4 more boundaries, it was a classic case of too little too late. Besides a brief period of sustained attack (partnership of 41 in 22 deliveries between Dhawan and Pant for the 3rd wicket), courtesy a cameo by Pant (25 in 13 balls), the innings never really took off.
The lower-order could not contribute much and Delhi lost wickets in succession after the exit of Pant. Dhawan was dismissed in the 18th over for 51 off 47 deliveries. The final push never came.
It was a high-risk innings by Dhawan. By not taking initiative up front, he left too much for himself to do at the death – but the final impetus never came. He also put added pressure on the other batsmen who did not get many deliveries to get their eye in and perished trying to push the run-rate.
The average score batting first at the Kotla is 157.72 and the home team were well short (they ended with 147 for 6).
Although Dhawan, the opener, has a great average in the IPL of 35.67, his strike rate of 124.46 is below the standard norm. He can no longer afford to play the role of the sheet-anchor which he did for Sunrisers Hyderabad.
His collective strike rate of just 102.56 in his last 10 limited-over innings is below par.
Dhawan played a similar innings in Delhi’s season opener in Mumbai – 43 in 36 balls (strike rate of 119.44). A rampaging Pant camouflaged that knock with a blitzkrieg.
It was a different story today in Delhi. Dhawan will need to re-define his role at the top.