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Ricky Ponting’s ‘unselfish’ verdict on Rishabh Pant’s role in DC on IPL 2024 return: ‘If he’s not entirely fit…’

Pant is all set to make a return to competitive cricket for the first time since December 2022, when he had suffered a major car accident.

Rishabh Pant is yet to be declared fit by the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru to play for Delhi Capitals in the impending 2024 season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), but franchise coach Ricky Ponting is already assessing all possibilities to have the India star back in the line-up.

Rishabh Pant is all set to make a return in IPL 2024(Delhi Capitals/IPL)

Pant is all set to make a return to competitive cricket for the first time since December 2022, when he had suffered a major car accident. Having spent the major part of 2023 in his recovery process at the NCA, Pant has featured a few practice games alongside India teammate Hardik Pandya in a bid to check his fitness.

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While there has been no official update from the NCA over Pant’s fitness amid media reports that he might only feature as a batter during the course of IPL 2024, Ponting, in conversation with Sanjana Ganesan on the latest episode of The ICC Review, admitted that he is hoping that the India star can make a return back to the side as a skipper.

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“It’s a big decision we’ll have to make because if he is fit, you’d think he’d step straight back into that captaincy role,” Ponting said. “If he’s not entirely fit and we have to use him in a slightly different role, then we’ve got some decisions to make there.”

The Australia legend revealed the amount of hardwork put by Pant to attempt the comeback, including the warm-up games he played at the NCA, which has left Delhi Capitals hoping that he would be fit for their IPL opener against Punjab Kings in Mohali on March 23.

“He’s actually played some practice matches over the last couple of weeks, which has been really encouraging for us,” Ponting said. “I know he’s worked incredibly hard on his body and his fitness to get back to the level that he’s at now. He’s kept in one of those games, he’s fielded in these games and the batting hasn’t seemingly been an issue for him so far. We’ve obviously had worries and concerns that he might not have made it in time to be ready for the IPL this year. I mean, he was a huge loss for us last year and what he went through, we can’t even begin to describe what he’s been through the last 12 or 14 months.”

Not just DC, Pant’s return will be a huge positive for the Indian cricket team as well with the spot for the wicketkeeping role still up for grabs in the T20 World Cup squad.

“I’m very hopeful, not from a selfish point of view as the coach of the Delhi Capitals, but I want to see him back playing cricket again. I think the whole world wants to see him back playing cricket again and just playing with that youthful exuberance that he has. If he does that, then I know he’ll win some games for Delhi and we’ll have a good time along the way this season,” Ponting added.

Despite being out of action for the last 15 months, which included missing the previous IPL season and the ODI World Cup for India, the former Australia captain is confident that Pant would get into his stride as soon as he returned to play.

“Knowing Rishabh, it probably won’t (take time to adjust) because he’s such a natural talent and just knowing the sort of person that he is, I don’t think he’ll be awed,” Ponting said.

“I don’t think he’ll be scared by the comeback. The fact that he’s missed 15 months of cricket, I don’t think it’ll faze him too much.

“I think he’ll just go out there and certainly, that’s my job anyway – I’ll be telling him to go back out and play the way that he’s always played and I think if he does that, I think the game will come back to him a bit quicker. If he goes out there and tries to find his way and get back into the groove, I think it might take him a little bit longer.

“But at the end of the day, that’s what these practice games now have been for, that’s what the camp has been for, for us to get his skills and his mindset back into a place where he can just go out and play the way that he’s always played.”


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