Shikhar Dhawan's World Cup has come to end midway through India's campaign. The opening batsman suffered a hairline fracture to his left thumb during his century against Australia on June 9 and hasn't recovered well enough to play the tournament.
Rishabh Pant, who was rushed in as a cover by the BCCI on June 11, two days after Dhawan suffered the blow, and trained with the Indian squad in Manchester ahead of the Pakistan match, has been approved by the ICC as Dhawan's replacement following a formal request by the BCCI.
Dhawan was present in Southampton today during the Indian training session, with his left hand wrapped in bandage. According to the BCCI, Dhawan's hand is expected to be in cast beyond the World Cup, which ends on July 14.
Speaking at a media briefing, India team manager Sunil Subramaniam read from a note: "Shikhar has a fracture at the base of his first metacarpal on his left hand [thumb]. Following several specialist opinions, he will remain in a cast until July, mid-July, which rules him out of the ICC World Cup 2019."
I feel emotional to announce that I will no longer be a part of #CWC19. Unfortunately, the thumb won't recover on time. But the show must go on.. I'm grateful for all the love & support from my team mates, cricket lovers & our entire nation. Jai Hind!pic.twitter.com/zx8Ihm3051— Shikhar Dhawan (@SDhawan25) June 19, 2019
"I feel emotional to announce that I will no longer be a part of #CWC19. Unfortunately, the thumb won't recover on time. But the show must go on," Dhawan tweeted a while after the announcement.
It was an unfortunate blow for Dhawan, and the team, considering it was only their second group match after winning the opening fixture against South Africa. The injury took place while Dhawan was hit in his gloves by a short Pat Cummins delivery. Dhawan carried on batting and scored a century, which earned him the Man of the Match award as India won by 36 runs. However, he did not field during the Australia innings.
He travelled to Leeds to meet a surgeon after that, where the fracture was diagnosed. The Indian selectors opted to take time on the matter and not name a replacement immediately following a positive appraisal from the team's medical staff led by physio Patrick Farhart.
Another significant factor behind the reluctance of the selectors and the team management to name a replacement in a hurry was Dhawan's record at various global tournaments. Dhawan was the highest scorer in each of the last five multi-team (five-plus teams) ODI tournaments for India: Champions Trophy 2013, Asia Cup 2014, World Cup 2015, Champions Trophy 2017 and Asia Cup 2018.
Against Australia, where he batted deep into the innings, the left-handed Dhawan had blunted the Australian slow bowlers, including legspinner Adam Zampa. After the washout against New Zealand in Nottingham in the third match, Indian captain Virat Kohli underlined Dhawan's importance to the team. "We want to hold him back, keep him here, because he wants to play. I think that kind of mindset will help in healing the injury as well as he really wants to play," Kohli had told the host broadcaster on June 14 while discussing the team's plans vis-à-vis Dhawan.
Pant's inclusion, meanwhile, didn't come as a surprise. A debate had erupted when Pant did not figure in the original 15-man World Cup squad. Eminent cricketing minds like Ricky Ponting, Pant's coach at Delhi Capitals in the IPL, felt the Indian selectors might have missed out on an X-factor player by ignoring the 21-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman. Instead, Vijay Shankar and Dinesh Karthik had been picked ahead of Pant and Ambati Rayudu, who was part of the squad in the last series India had played before the World Cup.
Pant, who has only played five ODIs (93 runs in four innings, at an average of 23.25 and strike rate of 130.08), was, however, named as one of the five stand-by players by the selectors. Being a left-hander, a very explosive one at that, the selectors felt Pant was a good replacement for Dhawan and could be fitted into the middle-order with KL Rahul now being pushed up as Rohit Sharma's opening partner.