IPL 2024: Is Rishabh Pant likely to come back only as a batter for now?

He is young and has been at the best medical hands, says ex-Indian keeper Deep Dasgupta

Rishabh Pant (pictured right) with Ricky Ponting (pictured left). (photo: BCCI)
Rishabh Pant (pictured right) with Ricky Ponting (pictured left). (photo: BCCI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The moment of truth regarding Rishabh Pant’s comeback into competitive cricket is nearing with the IPL 2024 now barely six weeks away. While the dasher, who is currently undergoing his rehab in the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru, sounds upbeat on the social media – there is a major question mark over him resuming his wicketkeeping duties anytime soon.  

While there has been a discreet silence from people in the know, the possibility of Pant keeping wickets after the ligament reconstruction surgeries on the back of his life-threatening car accident on 30 December, 2022 looks slim as of now. With the IPL introducing the Impact Player rule from 2023 season, Pant could well be seen purely as a batter or Impact Player to start with – if Delhi Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting’s comments are anything to go by.

‘’You would have seen all the social media stuff, he’s up and about and running well. But in saying that we’re only six weeks away from the first game as well. So we’re not sure if we’ll get wicketkeeping out of him this year,’’ Ponting was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

When asked how feasible is it to return to his core duties soon, which involves squatting and getting up with every delivery, former Indian stumper and TV pundit Deep Dasgupta was cautiously optimistic. ‘’While I don’t remember any such precedent in cricket, Pant has been taken to the best hands in this field who specialise in such reconstruction. The only sport in which I recall such things have happened is basketball, where the likes of legendary Kobe Bryant and a few others have made comebacks,’’ he said in a telephonic chat with National Herald.

‘’It’s difficult to set a timeline as to when we can see him keeping again, but then he is still young and at least 10 years or so left in the game. There is no hurry and once he comes back fully fit so that the knees can take the strain of keeping (for a possible 90 overs a day in a Test match), he should be able to continue as before,’’ remarked Dasgupta.   

Speaking at his unveiling as the head coach of Washington Freedom team in the Major Cricket League (MLC) in the US, Ponting said: ‘’We’ll just keep our fingers crossed and hope that he can be out there and play. Even if it’s not all the games, if we can manage him through 10 of the 14 games or whatever that might be then whatever games you can get out of him will be a bonus.’’

The former Australian captain, however, said senior pro David Warner would be captaining Capitals if Pant is unavailable to do the job.

The franchise, looking for a turnaround after a ninth place finish last year, picked up young England batter Harry Brook for Rs 4 crore at the auction to augment the top order. ‘’With Harry Brook coming into the set-up as well, so Warner, (Mitch) Marsh, Harry Brook, we’ve got some really good overseas batters,’’ Ponting said.

‘’Marsh and Warner will bat up the top somewhere and Harry Brook has been finishing off with England, so he’ll probably play a finishing role for us there.’’

‘’(If) we can get (Anrich) Nortje and Jhye Richardson fit, and with the two spin options we’ve got with Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav we’ve got a really good squad that to be fair has probably underperformed the last couple of years, so we’ve got some work to do.’’

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