Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) needed 28 runs off 21 balls to win the group match against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH); they had well-set batsman Manan Vohra at the crease, who alone had brought back life to a one-sided game. While the hosts struggled to bat on their home track on Monday, Vohra defied the pressure situation and had almost won Kings the match with one of the best knocks witnessed in the Indian Premier League (IPL). On the other hand, Sunrisers’ bowling attack had done a great job against Kings but could still lose the match, had they not dismissed Vohra.

Kings were four wickets away from a fantastic victory; Warner brought back his best death bowling specialist, Bhuveneshwar Kumar into the attack. Kumar had already made three crucial breakthroughs prior to his second spell in the match. Doing justice to the faith Warner showed in him, Kumar struck in the second ball of his third over as he removed Mohit Sharma and left Kings with three scalps. The man, however, who single-handedly seemed to run down with the game, was still striking the ball as cleanly as he had been in the initial overs.

Sunrisers needed his wicket. The next ball he had faced was smashed for a four and that left Kings 29 runs away from a victory. The confident Vohra, next ball, hit right from the middle of the bat that went flat, straight towards Shikhar Dhawan in the mid-off. The catch was easy; both Kumar and SRH captain began to celebrate even before the catch was completed. However, their joy was short-lived when Dhawan dropped a sitter, leaving Warner and SRH fans to erupt in anger. The Rajeev Gandhi International Stadium went quiet, while Warner’s expressions clearly showed he was not happy.

Even though Vohra eventually was trapped LBW off Kumar’s delivery and SRH clinched an incredible victory, SRH have a huge concern with Dhawan’s performance.

After Vohra survived, due to Dhawan’s sloppy fielding during the crunch moments, he hit his fifth six in the 18th over and cut the difference to 22 runs off 17 balls. In a T20 match, that was doable. Had Kings chased down the target with a wicket remaining, Vohra’s catch drop would easily be the turning point and Dhawan would come under severe criticism for not being able to deliver in both, batting and fielding.

Being among the senior-most players in the team, Dhawan has been inconsistent in scoring runs and especially during the chases; he has failed to make an impact. Out of the five matches of IPL 2017, he has two scores of 40+ and both the knocks came when SRH had batted first. Meanwhile, batting second he scored 9 and 23 against Gujarat Lions (GL) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). While SRH beat GL, they failed to chase down 173 against KKR. Following his early dismissals during SRH’s innings, the team then heavily depends on their skipper Warner to do the majority of the job.

Dhawan has been out of form in the last couple of months and which is why he had lost his place from the Indian team as well. The last time Dhawan played a Test for India was in 2016 and he played last in the blue jersey in the beginning of 2017. Ever since January, the Delhi batsman has not been a part of the Indian team. It was a great relief for the defending champions when Dhawan kicked off the tenth edition of the IPL with a solid knock of 40 off 31 at home against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).

However, the very next game witnessed Dhawan failed to maintain consistency and was dismissed cheaply for just nine runs. At present, Sunrisers are third in the points table with three wins in five matches and as the tournament will progress, the intensity will go on to a next level. It is not likely for the Australian vice-captain, Warner, to alone win matches for SRH with the bat, always. He will need support from his senior men in the team, but, more importantly, he will require Dhawan to step up and share partnerships with him in order to help SRH to replicate their 2016’s success.

In 2016, the year Sunrisers won the tournament, both Warner and Dhawan were consistent with the bat. Warner was the second highest run-scorer behind Kohli with 848 runs; Dhawan was not far behind. The Indian batsman had sealed the fifth spot on the table with 501 runs in 17 matches. There were several occasions last year when Dhawan and Warner gave SRH the required start and when the openers piled up runs, the other batsmen came out to bat with less amount of pressure on them.

Dhawan is fortunate that Sunrisers do not have a superior replacement for him in the squad. The other Indian opener they have on the bench is the 21-year-old Tanmay Agarwal. SRH can replace Dhawan with New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson at the top but their current overseas combination of four players has been delivering and they cannot afford to drop any of those players. This is the reason why Dhawan has been retaining his place in the XI despite inconsistent performances with the bat.

When the franchise has shown immense faith in the opener and not bought another top-order local batsman, it is Dhawan’s responsibility to do justice and prove his worth. The only way to do so is, regain consistency and score runs regularly.