Shikhar Dhawan's credentials as a classical Test opener is taking a hit after the left-hander was out caught in the slips off Morne Morkel in Durban on Thursday. Although the 29 at Kingsmead has been his best knock in the short two-Test series against South Africa so far, Dhawan's ability as an opener on quick and bouncier pitches is now being questioned by experts. Former South African batting specialist Daryll Cullinan has even gone to the extent of calling the 28-year-old Delhi batsman a "flat-track bully." (Read: Two to tango, Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay make merry)
Speaking on ESPNCricinfo, Cullinan says Dhawan's natural instincts may fetch him runs in sub-continental conditions but not in South Africa or England. Ever since making a world record debut against Australia in March this year - Dhawan hammered the fastest century as a debutant - he has not scored a fifty in his next six Test innings. More importantly, Dhawan's last three innings on foreign soil have produced just 57 runs, an anti-climax of sorts for a man who hammered 187 off 174 balls against an Aussie attack in his first Test innings in March 2013 in Mohali. (Read: Vijay, Pujara take India to 181/1 after Day 1 at Durban)
Cullinan was critical about Dhawan's approach and also questioned his technique to face quality pace bowling. Even on a Day 1 Durban wicket, strangely devoid of its natural assistance to pacers, Dhawan failed to score and was out playing an expansive drive only to be caught at third slips. "(He is a) flat-track bully. His back-foot goes nowhere. In South Africa you must have a backfoot game. Dhawan's backfoot doesn't go back and across and stays at the same place and fast bowlers across the world will find him out," Cullinan explained. (Gallery: All the pics from Day 1 at Kingsmead)
"Away from home, it will be the same old story for Dhawan. He is a talented guy and has something in him but he has to work on his technique if he wants to have a long career particularly outside the sub-continent," Cullinan said. (Read: Why is Morne Morkel frustrated at Kingsmead?)
"For all of us who have seen his success last season, we have always been concerned about his liking to drive the ball, very often on the up," said former Test batsman Sanjay Manjrekar, adding: "But then in the ICC Champions Trophy in UK, we saw his ability to leave balls. We thought he would (now) be (more) selective whole choosing the balls to drive." (All updates from Durban Test Day 2)
Manjrekar feels Dhawan has clearly been distracted by the short ball, often caught in the dilemma of whether to leave it or hit. "I think he is slightly distracted from those lines outside the off-stump where his instincts come into play and he has not been able to differentiate between an Indian pitch and a South African wicket," explained Manjrekar.