Virat Kohli need just have looked at the list of numbers on any cricketing website before making that tough decision between choosing KL Rahul or Shikhar Dhawan for the first Test match at Newlands. Forced to choose a partner for Murali Vijay, the Indian skipper chose momentum of form over reputation whilst penning down India’s opening batsmen in a match that began India’s long and tedious overseas tourney.

Dhawan had come into the India-South Africa series with an astonishing average of 68.75 in 2017, including two tons and when compared to Rahul’s average of 48.69, it seemed better. Much, much better.

But maybe the Indian skipper needed a little detailed analysis. Maybe he needed to rewind his memories back to the summer of 2015, when a young 22-year old Rahul had stormed out at the hallowed Sydney Cricket Ground to notch up a match-saving 110. It was Kohli’s first ever Test match as a full-time leader, with MS Dhoni having given up the reins after the game at Melbourne. And needless to say, every delivery and every knock would have been etched perfectly on his passionate mind.

How can he then forget the knock that Rahul had scripted back then? How can he forget the calm presence of the youngster who deftly handled Mitchell Starc’s short of a length deliveries and the death-defying bouncers? Was his ability to patiently wait for the balls that were pitched up overlooked for the iffy Dhawan?

Then, Rahul had played a knock that would have made any orthodox tutor of the game proud. The timings were perfect and so was his technique. He played close to the body, attacking only the deliveries that deserved to be attacked. Over the course of the three years, he has gone from strength to strength, improving upon all his flaws and minor misgivings.

The ability to play with the horizontal bat allows him to strengthen his square cut and his pull shot, which acts as a major boost on pitches overseas. He can use the pace of the ball to work on his strengths and this is aptly displayed when one looks at his average of 33 in Australia in four innings, including the debut century at the SCG and an average of 78.66 in West Indies on pitches that had something on offer for the pacers.

But Kohli’s argument to field Dhawan did have a logical reasoning. Yes, he was in form. Yes, it would have been unfair to drop the Delhiite given his threatening ability to attack at the top of the order in no time. So what if Rahul too had scored seven consecutive fifties? Kohli had made his choice for flair well-known and in the first Test match that was what he went ahead with.

But, was he foolish to overlook the lack of discipline that has been exhibited by the “Gabbar” of the Indian cricket team abroad who averages 27.8 in Australia; 20.33 in England and 18 in South Africa? Where the ball tends to seam and swing, Dhawan has always struggled and in that scenario, opting for the services of a dodgy player at the top of the order hardly made much sense.

Yes, he has an enviable conversion-rate and an even more enviable strike-rate. He is strong on the off-side and is a beast when he is driving the bowlers with a long front foot stride. With most bowlers pitching the new-ball outside off and near the full length, he is able to crisply smack the ball towards the mid-off covers. With most left-handers not being a strong player in the off-side, Dhawan’s play resonates with dominance and brute power.

But this is where his strengths transcend into a weakness. If the ball is seaming, as it was in South Africa, the plot to stay in line with the ball can prove to be one’s downfall. Also, due to his front-foot stride, his head is hardly in line with his front foot, which puts him in an awkward position, where he is nowhere near the ball. To correct that, he has the option of defending everything that is bowled away from the body but that would be relegating the main reason why he is in the team. To attack, in a manner that Virender Sehwag would, and to take India to a quick-fire score in the first few overs.

Against Steyn in Newlands, he was out pulling a back of a length delivery, a shot that was not on offer. It was a severe case of misjudgement and carelessness against one of the most dangerous bowlers of the era and as he walked back to the pavilion, the shadow of Rahul lurked around quietly in the corner, hoping to finally find a place in the second Test match at the Super Sport Park in Centurion.