Rishabh Pant and a tale of imaginary twins

Rishabh Pant in DC
Rishabh Pant in DC (PC: IPL)

How about Rishabh Pant having a twin brother on a cricket field? It seems like a story straight from a fiction movie, right? On a hot and humid Sunday night, while watching him bat, it felt like there were two Pants in the middle. The first one batted for 23 deliveries and then the next took over for the remaining nine deliveries. Of course, only one Pant played on that night in Vizag, but it just exemplifies how the Delhi Capitals skipper went about constructing his innings.

Initially, the strategy from Tushar Deshpande and Matheesha Pathirana  for Pant was quite clear — bowl wide the off-stump. Even before Pant suffered the untimely accident, most of the teams had started to use that particular strategy against Pant in the shortest format. It was in the 18th over when Pant broke free by cracking Mustafizur Rahman for a boundary and a six.

As soon as he essayed those two shots, there was pandemonium in the crowd. It is true that the left-arm pace bowler didn’t help his cause by angling the ball into the left-hander’s hitting zone. But the vintage one-handed flick would have brought tears of joy in the eyes of many cricket fans as it is a signature shot of Pant. It is a stroke that makes mockery of well-defined edicts of batting, with the ball invariably ending up in the stands. 

For a few minutes, Pathirana also lost his composure, with Pant picking up 10 runs off just two deliveries. The wicketkeeper-bat then proceeded to even negate CSK’s plan by slicing one via behind square on the off-side. He got out the next ball he faced but Pant had done more than enough to put a stamp on his comeback campaign. More importantly, Pant looked sharp and agile while shuffling around in the crease; a clear indicator that he has worked hard on fitness.

Alongside Pant, Prithvi Shaw and David Warner also gave a fine exhibition of batting. Shaw, undoubtedly, has enough shots in the locker. Just that, in the past, Shaw has had his issues against the moving ball. During the last domestic season, though, Shaw seems to have upgraded his game against swing and seam movement. It could be noticed during his brief stint in Vizag that Shaw’s back foot/toe was moving across a little more towards off-stump. 

As Martin Crowe, the former New Zealand batter, once told another website: “To go forward, the back foot does all the work, loading, pushing and releasing, while the front foot simply lands close to the ball, and the hitting through the line follows with ease.”

The DC think-tank also would be gladdened by how the pace-bowling unit went about executing their skills. Whenever a game is played in Vizag, there is a belief that the pace bowlers might get a little bit of assistance. With the pitch also having a hint of grass cover, the pacemen from both sides had a rare opportunity to put the batters under some pressure in a T20 game. And it was DC who trumped CSK in that respect.

Khaleel Ahmed, the left-arm pacer, was the one who impressed the most. He diligently implemented the plan of moving the ball away from Rachin Ravindra by hitting short of a length. And he was duly rewarded with the southpaw’s wicket. Khaleel also plucked the vital scalp of Ruturaj Gaikwad by finding a modicum of movement. 

While watching Khaleel, it is quite evident that he has the necessary weapons to play for India in white-ball cricket. He doesn’t just swing the ball or is reasonably good at hitting hard lengths, but Khaleel is also adept at changing the angles – from over to round the wicket and vice versa. Unfortunately, he couldn’t crack the code when he played for India. Who knows? If Khaleel shines brightly in this season’s IPL, he might be back in the mix.

In the final analysis, it was a collective effort that helped DC win their first game of IPL 2024. And that is an indicator of the team chiseling out the right path after a false start.


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