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The trouser conundrum for India | Cricket

There was a four-person short arm punch whip to midwicket that confirmed that only Rishabh Pant is capable of Rishabh Pant-like shots. But it can’t quite make up for the striking nosedive in runs. His last six white-ball outings have yielded scores of 3, 6, 6, 11, 15 and 10 and while they may not warrant immediate introspection, India may need to reconsider their decision to support Pant for the long haul as his miserable form doesn’t sink. This, and a few other mid-order puzzles, stare at India as they managed to leave New Zealand in a 1-0 defeat, though the third ODI looked almost finished and dusted in favor of the hosts as the rain poured in intervened and ended the match.

Finn Allen scored a 54-ball 57 and Devon Conway was careful with his unbeaten 38 off 51 balls to lead New Zealand to 104 for 1, well short of the DLS goal, when play was interrupted by rain. The match didn’t end with a result as the 20-over mark had not yet been reached, but India knows they got out of jail after a chaotic batting performance backed only by a wily 50-something from Washington Sundar. Shreyas Iyer missed a fifty, but the damage was done again around the 20-over when India failed to accelerate properly. Suryakumar Yadav was slipped and Deepak Hooda hit the ball with a feather when he tried to hook, but it was Pant’s dismissal that again stood out for his timing.

At 85/2, just after the 20-over mark, India were about to build on a 30-run stand between Pant and Iyer. But Pant succumbed to the pressure of some dot balls and made a throwing pull off Daryl Mitchell to a deep square leg, trudging and scoring 10 of 16 balls. Die Pant went through with the pull, even though he wasn’t in a position to get on top of the bounce, spoke volumes about the desperation in that shot. Pant is a batting maverick, capable of inflicting both miracles and ruin. But as white-ball cricket is more time and results tied and thus needs more consistency in terms of runs and contributions, there will be some questions later if not now. Is Pant in the white-ball side because of his Test exploits? Is he there because he is left handed? Has he been given a wide berth now that Dinesh Karthik should also be out of the T20 picture?

However, Pant himself is not worried. Speaking ahead of the start of the third ODI, he said comparing his white-ball and red-ball numbers when he is still 25 has no logic and should only be brought up when he is 30-32. He is also clear about where he wants to bat. “I would like to open in T20s, No. 4-5 in ODIs and Tests, I am already hitting No. 5,” said Pant. When it was suggested to Pant that his test numbers looked better when he came across as more of a white-ball player, Pant said, “A record is just a number, my white-ball record isn’t bad either. Comparison is not part of my life, I’m only 24-25, so you can compare once I’m 30-32. It makes no sense to compare before that.”

Regardless of how Pant might want to look at his career and numbers, there’s an undeniable sense that he fits more naturally in Tests, even if his unorthodox batting makes it seem more suited to shorter formats. Captaincy in IPL came earlier than thought and that may have prompted him to slow down, but Pant hasn’t looked comfortable in shorter formats lately. He is not adept at editing the strike. And the more he gets into a rut, the more premeditated his shots to get out of jail tend to become. However, Pant denies it. “There’s no real need to be premeditated in one-day cricket, but you have to in T20s,” he said on Wednesday. A few hours later, he got a pull that only looked premeditated.

Short Scores: India 219 in 47.3 ovs (Washington 51, Iyer 49, Mitchell 3/25, Milne 3/57) vs New Zealand 104 for 1 in 18 ovs (Allen 57, Conway 38*) No result. New Zealand won the series 1-0.

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