IPL: Rishabh Pant lifts the spirits as Delhi Capitals look to bounce back

Lack of quality Indian batters, absence of back-up spinners worrying factors

Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The buzz over the return of Rishabh Pant may have lifted the spirits in Delhi Capitals camp, but the 2020 runners-up will need more than that as they look to turn a new leaf after a nightmarish season last year.

They had finished ninth in the table and the team management will be desperate to buck the trend when they open their campaign against Punjab Kings at Mohali next Saturday.

‘’We missed him (Pant) incredibly last year. The whole tournament missed him. Rishabh brings so much energy to the team. He’s got that smile on his face, he’s hitting the ball as good as ever and he tends to lift all of his teammates around him,’’ chief coach Ricky Ponting said a few days after the keeper-batter joined their camp in Vizag.

Speaking to the Capitals media, their assistant coach and batting specialist Pravin Amre observed: ‘’As coaching unit and personally, it was really pleasing to see him bat. It didn’t feel like he was batting after a long time, the bat swing was vintage. We have to give credit to him, the way he has worked hard throughout the year is not easy. It shows how mentally strong and hungry he is.’’

Looking at the bigger picture, Ponting said he would expect more intensity in their campaign this season. ‘’I want the guys to be fully engaged and that’s the reason we’re all here. It’s my job to bring success to this team. We’re not talking about just winning enough games to qualify. We’re talking about winning the IPL,’’ the Australian legend said.

A reflection on their campaign since their new avatar in 2019 shows that the team had been relying heavily on the young Indian trio of Shreyas Iyer (now the KKR captain), Pant and Prithvi Shaw. With Iyer gone since 2022 and Shaw scraping together a measley 106 runs from eight matches last year, they are now woefully short of depth in Indian batters.

The last minute pullout of England batter Harry Brook due to his grandmother’s death has dealt a serious blow for the middle order and a lot will now depend on the kind of starts Shaw and senior pro David Warner can give the blue shirts.

Mitchell Marsh, the current Australia T20 skipper, comes in next as number three with Pant to follow most probably as a batter as a number of quality wicketkeeper-batter options are available.

South Africa’s Anrich Nortje will be the leader of the pace pack with current international Mukhesh Kumar likely to feature with him regularly. There are others like Jhye Richardson or veteran Ishant Sharma, though their ability to sustain a long season remains in question.

The slow bowling department boasts of the in-form Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav and a nagging Axar Patel, but there is a lack of adequate back-up with allrounder Lalit Yadav being capable of turning his arm over. They do have Vickey Ostwal, the leading wicket-taker for India’s U-19 team in the 2022 World Cup but he is yet to make his IPL debut.

Capitals will play their first two home matches in the coastal city of Vizag. Speaking about the new home base, Amre said: ‘’Vizag has always been a high-scoring ground and that’s what we wanted. It has got that true bounce and we are just looking forward to seeing what it has to offer.’’

Owners: GMR Group, JSW Sports

Captain: Rishabh Pant

Coach: Ricky Ponting

Best finish: Runners-up 2020

Rishabh Pant (c), Pravin Dubey, David Warner, Vicky Ostwal, Prithvi Shaw, Anrich Nortje, Abishek Porel, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Lalit Yadav, Khaleel Ahmed, Mitchell Marsh, Ishant Sharma, Yash Dhull, Mukesh Kumar, Tristan Stubbs, Ricky Bhui, Kumar Kushagra, Rasikh Dar, Jhye Richardson, Sumit Kumar, Shai Hope, Swastik Chhikara.

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