In the space of 24 hours, India has lost two tournament-winning left-handers.
They cannot hop into a time machine, kidnap the 2011 version of Yuvraj Singh and draft him into the Indian team.
Nor can they rewind to last Sunday and warn Shikhar Dhawan against planting his foot forward to that nasty Pat Cummins delivery, that fractured both his finger and India’s hopes of making it to the Semi-Finals.
With an average of 65.16, a strike rate of 98.25, 6 centuries, and 4 half centuries across 20 games in ICC tournaments, Dhawan is clearly India’s best big-match batsman.
Here are 4 reasons why India could struggle without Gabbar.
He’s India’s only Left-hander
In Indian culture, one is meant to use their right-hand for worship and eating, whereas the evil left-hand is meant for wiping up poop. Perhaps this explains why India doesn’t have any left-handers in their top 7 now that Dhawan is injured.
Putting amateur sociology aside, the southpaw’s absence is good news for left-arm spinners and leg-spinners in the opposition.
In India’s last game against Australia, he was particularly severe on Adam Zampa, using his feet to loft him over the infield, and getting down low to sweep away balls that were too straight.
It also helped Virat Kohli—whose recent struggles against leg spin are well documented—settle into his innings and work himself out of a mini-slump.
New Zealand and Pakistan—India’s next two opponents—have the leg-spin of Ish Sodhi and Shadab Khan, respectively, to call upon. Protected by bowling to the longer of the two off-side boundaries, they can attack India’s right-handers, without the threat of Dhawan’s audacious strokeplay laying waste to their plans.
Rohit Needs his Partner in Crime
Rohit Sharma, the husband is very similar to Rohit Sharma, the opening batsman: they’re both loyal to one partner.
Rohit’s numbers in the first 10 are far from ideal. He gets dismissed in this period in more than half of his innings.
Heading into this world cup, Rohit had the worst average, the lowest strike rate, and the worst balls-per-boundary ratio among the top 10 run-scorers in Powerplay 1 since WC 2015.
Despite all of this, Dhawan and Rohit complement eachother so well, making them arguably the best opening pair in ODIs. Rohit starts slowly, so he can launch after the PowerPlay, whereas Dhawan takes the bull by the horns to ensure that India’s score at the end of Powerplay 1 does not resemble the first morning of a test match.
India likes to conserve wickets and attack in the second half of the innings. However, in Dhawan’s absence, they are more likely to lose early wickets, piling further pressure onto a shaky middle order.
Won’t Somebody Please Think About KL?
After a composed century in the first T20I of India’s tour of England, Rahul was anointed as India’s number four.
Since then, however, a lack of faith, combined with a farcical ban for his comments on Koffee With Karan, has seen him drift in and out of the Indian squad.
If the selectors weren’t on his side, lady luck sure was. He only got his chance at number four because of the shoulder injury that Vijay Shankar suffered prior to the warm-up against New Zealand.
Despite being cleaned up by Trent Boult for 6 in the same fixture, he was persisted with at number four for the next game against Bangladesh. To the relief of Indian fans, he finally grabbed his chance, rescuing India from 102-4 on his way to a fluent, convincing, and match-winning century.
Social Media was having a field day.
At long last, India had found their number four, the missing cog in the wheel.
A nation’s fears were put to rest as bookmakers scrambled to adjust their tournament odds.
Stop the music.
Just as the team management was beginning to empower Rahul with the clarity of role that he deserves, the injury to Dhawan has forced them to shuffle him around once again.
It’s unfortunate, but he’s clearly better equipped than anyone else in the squad to fill the un-fillable void left by Gabbar.
But how will this affect him? He just started to figure out a tempo to bat at in the middle overs. Now, he will have to adjust to a whole new set of challenges at the top, most notably the swinging ball.
To make matters worse, he will be thrown into the deep end against Trent Boult under the cloudy, unforgiving skies of Nottingham.
A nation’s fears have re-emerged as bookmakers scramble to adjust the tournament odds.
No, not the Number 4 debate! Not AGAIN!
Since bursting onto the scene with a defiant 46 against New Zealand in his first ODI innings, Vijay Shankar has done little of note.
In fact, he’s been horrible! He’s now gone 24 innings across ODI’s, T20s, T20I’s, and the warm-up game, without a single half-century!
When you combine those worrying statistics with the fact that he’s never batted at 4 in ODI’s, it makes you question whether or not he is overrated.
Dinesh Karthik—of Nidahas Trophy fame—is more of a finisher, although his strike rate at Number 4 since his comeback is a worryingly low 71.35.
Both of these less than ideal replacements have thrown their wicket away on multiple occasions. The way Karthik flicked a leg-stump half volley straight into the hands of deep square leg during India’s warm-up loss to the Kiwi’s, is perhaps the grossest example of this.
It makes you question how someone as dangerously talented as Rishabh Pant is merely on standby.
Come to think of it, stand by is all India can do now in the hope that their best big-game batsman is able to take the field as soon as possible.
His absence has left a gaping hole in India’s batting line-up. By the time the mustachioed southpaw does return, it may be too late for India to climb out of this hole and progress to the semi-finals.