All eyes on Pant as Mullanpur set for IPL debut

Pant is all set for his comeback game. (

All eyes will be on Rishabh Pant on Saturday as he makes his much-awaited return to competitive cricket with Delhi Capitals, as they face-off against the Punjab Kings at a new IPL venue, the Maharaja Yadavindra Singh International Cricket Stadium, situated in the village of Mullanpur, on the outskirts of Chandigarh.

Named after the late Maharaja Yadavindra Singh, who represented India in a solitary Test match in 1934, the venue holds historical significance, with Yadavindra Singh’s father, Bhupendrasingh Rajendrasingh, donating the Ranji Trophy in 1933.

Similar to Mohali’s IS Bindra Stadium, renowned for high-scoring matches in previous IPL seasons, the pitches in Mullanpur have also favoured the batters. In the 2023-24 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Mullanpur ranked fourth among venues with the highest overall run rates, registering 8.51 runs per over in matches where a minimum of five games were played.

If these stats are to be believed, then Pant will enjoy his time in the middle with bat in hand. However, Pant’s record against PBKS suggests otherwise. The southpaw’s average against Punjab (16.36) is his worst against any IPL team. Even his strike rate of 120 is low. He’s yet to score a fifty against the Punjab-based team, and he will look to change that when he takes the center-stage in Mullanpur.

Life hasn’t been easy for Pant in the last 14 months or so since the horrific car accident. He has missed a lot of on-field action, but the way he was smashing the bowlers in the practice session in Vizag, it seems like Pant is ready to compensate for his long absence. According to head coach Ricky Ponting, Pant is doing just that. “He has probably batted more in the last week than he has ever batted leading into most of the IPL.”

Whether Pant will immediately take on his keeping duties remains uncertain. In the event that he doesn’t, DC can rely on options like Shai Hope, Tristan Stubbs, or even Abishek Porel.

On the other hand, PBKS are banking on a change of fortune at their new home base after a dismal record at the IS Bindra Stadium, where they only managed to secure one victory out of four home games in the 2023 IPL.

Under the leadership of Dhawan, the team possesses a formidable batting line-up, complemented by a blend of domestic and international stars in the middle order such as the new vice-captain Jitesh Sharma, Atharva Taide, Rilee Rossouw, and Jonny Bairstow. The squad also boasts versatile all-rounders like Sikandar Raza, Sam Curran, Liam Livingstone, and Rishi Dhawan, while the bowling attack is spearheaded by Kagiso Rabada alongside Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, and Nathan Ellis.

Despite their firepower, PBKS often start matches slowly and fail to fully utilise their potential in the middle overs. In head-to-head encounters, PBKS and DC have won 16 games each out of the 32 matches played. Both teams are yet to secure an IPL title, but with revamped squads, they enter the season with renewed hope of breaking the title drought.

A look at the two sides gives the impression that DC have a more balanced unit. Although PBKS don’t look bad either but DC have more players who can be impactful on a variety of wickets. The team defending a target might have an advantage.

There’s a lot of uncertainty ahead of this game. How will Pant fare in his comeback game? How is the pitch going to play? But one thing is certain that it’s going to be an exciting showdown at the Mullanpur stadium.

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