Let T20 WC wait, Pant already a winner for coming back from the brink

Rishabh Pant at the Delhi Capitals training session (Image: DC)

Rishabh Pant’s return to cricket following a harrowing car accident in December, 2022, has sparked optimism among fans. After 14 months, the ever-smiling Pant is back on the field, training with the Delhi Capitals squad in Visakhapatnam, ahead of the Indian Premier League starting on March 22.

There have been instances of comebacks from mounting odds and debilitating injuries. Yuvraj Singh donning the national jersey after defeating cancer remains one of the most memorable of such tales. Pant’s return paints a similar picture. His recent batting displays, showcased in videos released by Delhi Capitals and the BCCI, exhibit his vintage bat swing, drawing praise from coach Pravin Amre. However, as Pant gears up for the rigours of the IPL, his ability to cope with fatigue remains a point of interest.

Pant’s return is bigger than his on-field exploits. It embodies a journey of resilience. Devender Sharma, assistant to the late Tarak Sinha and now a coach at Sonnet Club, notices a marked transformation in Pant’s outlook towards life over the past year. From a carefree mind to a more mature perspective, his evolution reflects newfound realisations in life.

“Rishabh was with me for 2-3 days before joining the Delhi Capitals camp. He is in a positive mood and looking forward to playing again. His outlook towards life has changed in these 12-16 months,” Devender told RevSportz.

“Earlier, he used to have that child-like attitude but now, if you meet him, you will see a newer version of Rishabh, a very mature guy. Like before, he will have that child-like smile on his face but when you talk to him about life, the perspective and thought process has completely changed.”

Despite undergoing multiple surgeries, skin grafting, and extensive rehabilitation, Pant aims to bolster Delhi’s batting with his trademark firepower. His potential inclusion in the T20 World Cup squad, as hinted by BCCI secretary Jay Shah, hinges on his performance in the IPL. While Pant has been cleared as a wicketkeeper-batter by the National Cricket Academy, Delhi Capitals may adopt a cautious approach initially, looking at alternative wicketkeeping options.

Amid expectations of Pant’s return to wicketkeeping duties, Delhi Capitals seek to reinforce their middle-order aggression. Players like Abhishek Porel and Kumar Kushagra will be under scrutiny, aiming to justify their roles in the team. Delhi would hope for improved outings from Porel, who managed 33 runs in four matches last season at a strike-rate of 106.45. For Kushagra, he will have to justify the hefty price-tag of Rs 7.20 crore. 


“There is no rush for Pant to keep wickets. He will eventually do that but when is the question. We have two talented domestic keepers in Porel and Kushagra. We might start with either of them and later take a call when Pant can get into wicketkeeping. But to say the least, the way Pant is catching up with the requirements of IPL, his fitness, batting, it has been heartening,” a source at Delhi Capitals told RevSportz.

Nevertheless, Pant remains eager to don the big gloves in the opening game against Punjab Kings, displaying confidence in his fitness and form. His determination to reclaim his spot in the national team, especially for the upcoming T20 World Cup, underscores his commitment to India.

“He is extremely positive about his fitness and body. He played a T20 game in Alur where he batted for more than two hours pain-free. That’s the biggest positive. He was repeatedly saying it’s like a second life to him, his debut again,” Devender said.

“Rishabh wants to keep wickets from the very first match but it will all depend on how his body responds to high-level cricket. Warm-up matches and IPL matches are different ball games. I am confident he will have a good IPL and keep wickets too. If he can pull it off, we could very well see him in the T20 World Cup. He is confident about it.”

While debates persist over Pant’s readiness for the T20 World Cup, the IPL will serve as a litmus test. With contenders like Jitesh Sharma, Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson and Dhruv Jurel vying for spots in the squad, Pant’s path to reinstatement remains challenging.

Jitesh is one of the leading candidates to make the cut for the T20 World Cup. Playing as a finisher, he has 100 runs under his belt off 68 deliveries in seven innings at a strike-rate of 147.05 since the time Pant got injured.

In the same period, Kishan, majorly playing as an opener, has 207 runs in 11 innings at a strike-rate of 112.5, while Sanju has 54 runs off 37 deliveries in four innings at a strike-rate of 145.94. Pant, if he can crack the IPL code, won’t find it too difficult to find a place in the Indian squad if his fitness level stays undisturbed.

Then there is Jurel, who has impressed one and all, in the recently concluded Test series against England. His cracking exploits down the order for Rajasthan Royals last season is still fresh in the memories of the fans, and he is definitely a contender to board the plane to the US.

As speculation swirls and debates linger, let us take a moment to appreciate Pant’s triumphant comeback. Here stands a man who stared into the abyss and emerged victorious. His return to the cricket field is a tale for the ages. Amid selection talks and strategic analyses, let us pause to honour the courage and determination of a player who defied the odds.


[Stats by Snehasis Mukherjee]

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