Rishabh Pant 'too good to not get picked' for T20 World Cup: Ricky Ponting charts DC captain's progress since comeback | Crickit

Rishabh Pant 'too good to not get picked' for T20 World Cup: Ricky Ponting charts DC captain's progress since comeback

Apr 23, 2024 06:26 AM IST

Rishabh Pant has made a strong return to competitive cricket, and is among the many names being discussed for a T20 World Cup spot.

From the pre-IPL speculations about whether Rishabh Pant would focus solely on batting to make a gradual comeback to swiftly emerging as a strong contender for a T20 World Cup spot with impressive performances both as a batter and wicketkeeper, Pant has made quite some turnaround.

Delhi Capitals' captain Rishabh Pant plays a shot during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Delhi Capitals and Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Arun Jaitley Stadium(AFP)
Delhi Capitals' captain Rishabh Pant plays a shot during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Delhi Capitals and Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Arun Jaitley Stadium(AFP)

The Delhi Capitals captain returned to competitive cricket after being forced to miss nearly 14 months of sporting action following a near-fatal car crash. After the halfway mark in the season, Pant is the side's highest scorer in the 2024 season, with 254 runs in eight innings, boasting a strike rate of 150. Additionally, he has been sharp behind the wickets, prompting discussions over his comeback to the national team at the T20 World Cup in the USA and the West Indies.

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And while Pant will have to wait for the final word from the selectors, he has got the seal of approval for a ticket to the Caribbean from his DC head coach, Ricky Ponting, who believes not picking the 26-year-old could hurt India.

"I think his batting is getting better and better by the game," Ponting said during a media interaction in Delhi.

"I think he has started to get a bit more trust and belief in his body as well. I think early on, he was a little bit apprehensive, especially with his wicketkeeping side. He had done a little bit of batting coming into the tournament. He had pretty good trust with a bat in his hand. But now, his keeping skills behind the stumps have been really good.

“His batting is getting better and better. by the game. And now, that he's back to playing, what I think about his World Cup chances, I think he will be there in that squad for sure. He is too good a player and can have too much of an impact on the game for India not to select him in the squad.”

Calling Pant the “heart and soul” of the franchise, Ponting also reflected on the wicketkeeper-batter's time away from action. Pant had visited the DC camp last year as he was undergoing recovery from several injuries in the car crash, and the former Australian captain remembered the time he felt Pant would never don a cricketing kit again.

“I think the way he thinks about life is a little bit different than before. He faced truly terrifying times when you think about the accident in isolation. The extent of his injuries… when I first saw him in the middle of last year's IPL, I must admit I had concerns if he was going to play again,” Ponting recalled.

“But he has worked really hard; this franchise has been very supportive in doing everything it can to give him a chance to come back to full fitness. Now, he's running between the wickets well, he's keeping well, his hand-eye coordination with gloves and his movement is good. More importantly, when I saw him just after the accident, there wasn't much to be happy about for him, but he's back to playing cricket with a smile on his face, and that's the most important thing.”

Pant is likely to be in contention for wicketkeeping spots for the T20 World Cup alongside Sanju Samson, who has been leading the Rajasthan Royals brilliantly. Veteran wicketkeeper-batter Dinesh Karthik also made a surprise entrance into contention for spots after his brilliant power-hitting knocks for the Royal Challengers Bengaluru; he confirmed his availability for selection to the national team last week.

'No spot for anchors'

The T20 game has evolved significantly over the past few years, but nothing could have potentially prepared the teams for the enormous power-hitting on display in the ongoing IPL season. In DC's previous match against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, the opening duo of Travis Head and Abhishek Sharma broke the record for the highest score in the powerplay, smashing 125 runs without losing a wicket.

Ponting believes that the anchor role has been long gone in the shortest format of the game, and teams have to be full of aggressive batters who can also understand the situational demands of the game. He explained his position with an example of Jake Fraser-McGurk's knock in the game against SRH; the Australian youngster produced an aggressive knock, smashing 65 off 18 balls, but was dismissed while attempting a six off the last ball of the seventh over, having already smashed three sixes on the previous three deliveries.

"I don't think there has been a spot for the anchors for a long time in the game. You need to have batters who can do both (power-hitting and anchoring). You need players who can adjust to what's required. You have to pick your best and most aggressive players and hope that they can adjust if we are 3 or 4 down earlier.

“Jake played an incredible innings to get to where he got. If he hadn't charged on the last ball of the over, he would've gone to another over against another spinner. It's one thing to do the all-out attack, but you have to have game awareness. It's not about aggressive batting all the time. There were a few moments in this competition already where we got things wrong, and it cost us the matches in one or two overs,” Ponting explained.

Delhi Capitals are currently eighth in the table with three wins in eight games. The side returns to action on April 24 when it hosts Shubman Gill's Gujarat Titans.

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