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India vs Australia: Focus on Rishabh Pant in MS Dhoni’s backyard

NAGPUR, INDIA - MARCH 04: Rishabh Pant of India ahead of game two of the One Day International series between India and Australia at Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground on March 04, 2019 in Nagpur, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

With a chance to seal the series, will India give misfiring openers another shot at redemption here on Friday or will they continue auditioning slots for the World Cup?

Even without Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan’s joint-venture being successful in the short term — their opening stand in Hyderabad yielded four runs and zero in Nagpur — Australians keep pointing out how formidable India are at home; on Thursday Nathan Lyon was the latest addition to the list that also has their skipper Aaron Finch. So will India repose faith in the old firm, one that, at 4322 runs from 98 games, is the fourth successful ever in international 50-over cricket?

An easier call will be to give Bhuvneshwar Kumar a game. Back from a break, he hit the optional nets first at the JSCA International Stadium Complex, bowling to Dhawan and then MS Dhoni, and then explained the importance of getting rest at the expense of getting a continuous run.

“You want to be consistent, for that you want to be fit. You want to give your 100 per cent in every match. For that you want to be fit. That’s the reason why I took rest,” said the 29-year-old medium-pacer who, in a little over six years of playing One-day Internationals, has also developed into a useful lower-order batsman.

Bumrah’s return may not ease Finch’s turbulent passage through India. The opener, whose runs helped Australia win the last World Cup, made 37 in Nagpur but that was his second highest score in nine games. Since his Test debut last year, Finch has averaged 15 in the shorter format and Lyon was asked on Thursday whether he would play here. “I am not a selector so I don’t know who or what we are going to run out with tomorrow,” said Lyon.

Finch fell to Bhuvneshwar thrice in three one-dayers in Australia earlier this year. Kumar said he has been successful against Finch because he has been out of form. “Once he gets going, he is very dangerous.”

Who Bhuvneshwar pairs with is also something India need to decide given the focus on workload management but it is possible that he and Jaspreet Bumrah, possibly India’s first-choice partnership in England in the World Cup, would start the bowling.

Back to batting. India could give KL Rahul a game after he made 50 and 47, in 36 and 26 balls respectively, in the two T20 Internationals that preceded this five-match series. Since captain Virat Kohli, who skipped nets on Thursday, has said that barring the second wicket-keeper and reserve opener, the World Cup squad has been firmed up, they could also give Rishabh Pant his fourth one-day game over four months after his last.

Pant’s impetuosity got the better of his unquestionable abilities in the T20 Internationals in this series but should he play in Dhoni’s backyard, it could be an important step in the passing of baton even though in a place where nearly everyone has a story that adds to the aura of its favourite cricketer, no one is saying farewell yet.

News Credit – Hindustan Times

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