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Buzz builds as Rishabh Pant cleared for comeback after 14 months

A consummate entertainer on the field, focus will be on whether the ‘keeper-batter can stand the physical demands of the role on return.

During the recent Test series between India and England, opener Ben Duckett said that the visiting team should take some credit for Yashasvi Jaiswal’s attacking heroics. The young Rohit Sharma left-hander out-Bazballed England, hitting 23 sixes and 68 fours on way to scoring 712 runs in a Player-of-the-Series performance.

Rishabh Pant will be back in action during IPL 2024.

When India skipper was asked about Duckett’s comment ahead of the final Test in Dharamsala, his reply was a nod to a different maestro: “There was a guy called Rishabh Pant in our team, probably Duckett hasn’t seen him play.”

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It is unlikely Duckett would not have watched Pant; indeed, it is unlikely any cricketer in the world would not be aware of the phenomenon Pant was.

In the manic, talent-filled world of Indian cricket, out of sight can often mean out of mind.

Despite being sidelined after a major accident in December 2022, Pant’s heroics have stayed fresh in the mind; the ability to make something out of nothing, the penchant to put pressure back on the opposition and singing behind the stumps – all unforgettable.

Such was the severity of his injury that the rehabilitation was going to be a long and often frustrating. The doctors said he would need 16 to 18 months to get back on the field. But Pant wanted to push himself, give himself a goal… He said he would do it in less. On Tuesday, everyone knew he had succeeded.

“After undergoing an extensive 14-month rehab and recovery process, following a life-threatening road mishap on December 30th, 2022, near Roorkee, Uttarakhand, Rishabh Pant has now been declared fit as a wicket-keeper batter for the upcoming IPL 2024,” BCCI said in a statement on Tuesday.

Also Read | Rishabh Pant’s first reaction after BCCI’s ‘fit for IPL’ update as Jay Shah’s ‘T20 World Cup’ wish comes true

There had been a buzz around Pant for a while. There were appearances on TV, in ads, at the IPL auction table of Delhi Capitals last year. But no one was quite sure. The Delhi buzz was that he might play solely as a batter, but would the knee hold out in a competitive game? Would he be able to throw himself around? Would it be the Pant of old?

Delhi Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting recently said, “if he is fit, you’d think he’d step straight back into that captaincy role.”

With the National Cricket Academy having declared Pant fully fit after a rigorous rehab and recovery process, a DC announcement to that effect may not be far away. Capitals begin their IPL 2024 campaign against Punjab Kings in Mullanpur on March 23.

Many fans would hope a good IPL would also place him in a good position to become India’s first choice keeper-batter for the T20 World Cup starting on June 1. It is a big if, but this is Pant we are talking about.

The word from BCCI is that Pant remains skipper Rohit Sharma’s first choice for the World Cup, dependent on fitness and form. For now, keeping expectations to the bare minimum might be the way to go. He underwent surgeries to reconstruct all three ligaments in his right knee. The ligaments play a huge role in maintaining the stability of the knee and recovery can be tricky, especially given the explosive movements ‘keepers need in the heat of the moment.

It was decided not to risk playing him in the recent DY Patil T20 tournament in Navi Mumbai where many T20 regulars participated. All Pant has played so far is practice matches at NCA.

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

The Capitals camp remains expectant that Pant’s return will go to plan, but they couldn’t have been sure a few months back which is why they picked plenty of backups in the auction in December 2023.

Abhishek Porel, Kumar Kushagra, Ricky Bhui, Shai Hope and Tristan Stubbs can all keep wicket. None of them are automatic choices though, and playing one of the two overseas players will mean having to drop one of Dave Warner, Harry Brook, Anrich Nortje or Mitch Marsh.

The national selectors and medical staff will closely monitor how Pant’s knee copes with the ‘keeping workload. Then there is his batting alone. When on song, he is a difference-maker with his free-spirited batting.


There are many claimants for India’s T20 World Cup ‘keeper’s slot. IPL in many ways will be an audition. What is certain is that the selectors want to slot the ‘keeper in the middle order and not at the top. This is the primary reason for Lucknow Super Giants captain KL Rahul deciding to drop down from the top order to stake claim.

Dhruv Jurel is the current flavour after his heroics on Test debut, but he’s unlikely to get the gloves for Rajasthan Royals. Sanju Samson leads RR and keeps. And given his ability, he too can stir a debate with impressive showings.

The man who last wore the keeping gloves for India was Jitesh Sharma, preferred over Ishan Kishan. Jitesh couldn’t make the chances count, but the power-hitter will hope to put on a show for Punjab Kings. Ishan Kishan too will be a long shot.

Whether Pant can jump the queue remains to be seen, but for someone who initially thought his time in the world may be over, stepping back on the field tugs at on one’s heartstrings.

“I’m very hopeful, not from a selfish point of view as DC coach, but I want to see him back playing cricket again,” Ponting said. “I think the whole world wants to see him back playing cricket again and just playing with that youthful exuberance that he has.”


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