IPL: Rishabh Pant inspires awe as Delhi Capitals look to build on last win

You will remember this innings for a lifetime, Sourav Ganguly pens an emotional post

Rishabh Pant in action against CSK (photo: BCCI)
Rishabh Pant in action against CSK (photo: BCCI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

It’s a no-brainer as to who is the most influential cricketer in IPL 2024, irrespective of his on-field performance: Rishabh Pant. The sport has seen many a stirring comeback over decades, from cancer survivors to debilitating injuries, but none has quite come back from the dead as the maverick keeper-batter.

His free-stroking half century at No.3 (51 off 32 balls) against Chennai Super Kings the other night, his first in nearly one-and-a-half years, will now be treated as a reference point in his career. Sourav Ganguly, now Director of Cricket for Delhi Capitals teams and an unabashed admirer of Pant, put it into perspective in a post on X: ‘’Well played Rishabh Pant @RishabhPant17…u will remember this innings for a lifetime.u have played many brilliant ones and will play even better ones but this story will remain with u always @ParthJindal11@bcci.’’

There will be a spring in Pant’s step as Capitals, who eked out a 20-run win over champions Chennai Super Kings for their first win in three games, as they take on an in-form Kolkata Knight Riders at their second home venue of Vizag on Wednesday, 3 April.

As the chorus grows louder to see him in the squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup, Pant reflected on his days in the wilderness. ‘’As a cricketer, I have to give my 100 percent. Took some time initially as I haven’t played much cricket in 1.5 years. This is something I’ve depended on my life on. Always had the self-belief that whatever happens, it’s important to come back to the ground,’’ Pant said in the post-match presentation ceremony.

Despite a couple of shaky innings to start with, Pant showcased his destructive batting prowess – the signature one-handed hoik hinting at a return to form.

‘’It’s inspirational, no question about it. To think that Rishabh had the ability to do this tonight, after the injuries that he sustained is unbelievable,’’ the sense of awe was unmistakable in Shane Watson’s voice.

Speaking on Jio Cinema, Watson – a World Cup winner and IPL giant said: ‘’You're not a true human being if you’re not inspired by Rishabh Pant, the way he was able to come out and turn it on like that. It took him a little while to find his feet but once he let those shackles off, he played some 'Rishabh Pant' shots, and they were extraordinary.’’

The presence of South African Tristan Stubbs and Australian Mitchell Marsh adds significant firepower to the Capitals’ batting lineup, but their performances need improvement, especially towards the backend of the innings as DC lacks domestic power hitters.

While Stubbs demonstrated his batting prowess against Rajasthan Royals, consistent performances from him would greatly benefit the Capitals. Similarly, Marsh is yet to unleash his power-hitting abilities he is known for.

Anrich Nortje, coming back from a prolonged injury break, is still finding his rhythm - adding pressure on the Capitals’ Indian pace unit to deliver exceptional performances against KKR. While Khaleel Ahmed’s bowling performance against Chennai was noteworthy, his persistent fielding issues, especially with aerial catches, remain a cause for concern. His dropped catch of MS Dhoni in the previous match highlights this ongoing struggle.

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