Former Indian batter Mohammad Kaif has backed Punjab Kings’ (PBKS) decision to replace Mayank Agarwal as captain with veteran opener Shikhar Dhawan for the IPL 2023 season. Kaif feels that the move will serve as a motivation for the left-hander at the fag end of his cricketing career.
PBKS, who had appointed Agarwal as captain for the IPL 2022 season, sacked the opener after he failed to deliver the goods as leader and batter. The 31-year-old had a forgettable season with the bat, scoring 196 in 13 matches at an average of 16.33 and a strike rate of 122.50. The Karnataka cricketer, under whom Punjab finished sixth in IPL 2022, has also been released from the squad.
Sharing his views on Punjab’s decision to appoint Dhawan as captain for the upcoming IPL season, Kaif termed it the right move. Speaking to Sportskeeda, he opined:
“I am happy people are not forgetting him. At least the franchises are backing him and giving him that respect. The franchise is basically telling him – you have shown what you can do with the bat. Now can you lead Punjab to victory in the IPL?”
Stating that his elevation to captaincy has come at the right time, the former cricketer elaborated:
“It is good that he has been given that responsibility and respect. Being promoted as captain of Punjab will be a motivation for Dhawan at this stage in his career. He might not play for more than 3-4 years, so I feel the captaincy has come at the right time for him.
“Since he is also leading India, he knows about the players and his mind is also switched on. I am hopeful of him doing a good job in the IPL.”
Kaif went on to describe Dhawan as an unsung hero and lamented that he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. The 41-year-old commented:
“He has done so well for India. Even in the IPL, he has more than 6000 runs. In almost every IPL season, he notches up 400-500 runs. A couple of years back, he also scored his maiden T20 ton. The last 2-3 years have been excellent for Dhawan.”
Dhawan, 36, is the second-leading run-getter in the history of the IPL. In 206 matches, he has notched up 6244 runs at an average of 35.08 and a strike rate of 126.35.
“He is good enough to play more than one format” – Kaif on Dhawan not being part of India’s T20I squads
While Dhawan continues to make a mark in the IPL, he has not represented India in T20Is since July 2021. With youngsters like Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan in line to grab the openers’ slots, it looks unlikely that he will earn a recall.
However, Kaif believes that the veteran opener is still good enough to play T20Is for the country. He stated:
“Dhawan doesn’t get the rewards he deserves. He has been limited to a one-format player, which I don’t feel is. I don’t agree with the observation that he would have struggled in Australia. He has a very good technique for bouncy tracks.
“It’s another matter that he is not part of the (T20I) team, but I still feel he is good enough to play more than one format. Leave aside Tests, but he can definitely play in both white ball formats.”
Dhawan, who will be leading India in the ODIs in New Zealand, has 1759 runs to his name in 68 T20Is at an average of 27.92 and a strike rate of 126.36.