‘Rishabh Pant will win many more games for Delhi Capitals’ - Ricky Ponting

Rishabh Pant has matured over the last few months and will deliver many match-winning performances for Delhi Capitals this season, according to Ricky Ponting, the head coach.

Rishabh Pant goes down on one knee and hits the ball down the ground during his match-winning 27-ball 78 against Mumbai Indians on Sunday.   -  AP

The unbeaten knock of 78 played by Rishabh Pant on Sunday was a special one and those kinds of innings are not seen every day, feels Ricky Ponting, the Delhi Capitals head coach.

Pant struck seven sixes in his rapid knock against Mumbai Indians, some outrageous strokes through the leg-side for sixes. Ponting, reiterating his observation that Pant has the “x-factor,” also felt he had matured in the last few months and was more capable of delivering match-winning performances for his side.

“I’ve known for a couple of seasons now that Rishabh Pant’s got that x-factor about him. What I’m liking more and more is how he’s turning that into match-winning performances more often as well. Last season, he was playing at his best when our team played abysmally in most games. Yesterday, we set up a really good platform for him to go and express himself at the end of the innings. Colin Ingram did a great job yesterday, changing to momentum of the game for us, giving a platform for Rishabh to go and finish off the innings. He’s something special. I’ve mentioned that in the team chat we had last night. One does not see an innings like that every day; and he’s doing it more and more. I’ve really seen Rishabh Pant mature his game and mature as a person also. That won’t be the only game he wins for Delhi this year. He’ll win many more games for sure,” Ponting said here on Monday ahead of Capitals’ IPL contest against Chennai Super Kings.

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Ricky Ponting, the Delhi Capitals coach, says Rishabh Pant is maturing as a person too.   -  VIVEK BENDRE

 

In contrast, Shikhar Dhawan played a more dour knock at the top of the order. But Ponting pointed out he had done his job. “We want Shikhar to be able to hold the top of our innings together. Hold the top order together. I think the reason he was a little bit more subdued yesterday was that it wasn’t an easy wicket early on. The first three or four batsmen that came in said that there was just a little bit of seam movement in the pitch. So, we need Shikhar to play that kind of role, get through the tough overs, and that was going to allow guys like Ingram and Rishabh Pant to come and play that they did later on. So, I think that was a really encouraging start for Shikhar for the Delhi Capitals. He will get better; he’ll build on that,” Ponting said.

Ponting also praised Ishant Sharma, the fast bowler, for his role in the 37-run win, and for his work ethic. “Ishant’s work ethic since he’s been here with the Delhi Capitals has been absolutely outstanding. He’s a leader around the group now. I think he’s bowling as well now as he has ever bowled in his career. His pace is as quick as he’s bowled in his career which is a great sign. He did a great job for us last night, bowling those first three overs in the Powerplay. It really set the game for us,” Ponting said.

Unlike at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday, the pitch at the Ferozeshah Kotla may not support a run-fest. Accordingly, there could be possible changes in the Capitals line-up, according to captain Shreyas Iyer. Looking ahead to the contest, he said, “Depending on the wicket we’ll be deciding how to go about the [team line-up]. In our batting line-up we’ll be deciding how we will play on a certain wicket. Since we got a really good start in Mumbai, it’s really going to be really important for us to maintain the consistency and from there onwards we’ll be setting up the benchmark for everyone in the team. As a team we have been having our preparations; all of them are really batting [well] at the moment. We have just got to back our instincts and play the way we are [playing] currently.”

With a fresh look, the team is looking for a change in its fortunes this season. The efforts towards that end are visible, noted Ponting. “We’re really happy with what we’ve been able to build in the last 10 or 12 days since we’ve been together as a group. We’ve trained really hard. We’ve talked long and hard about some cultural things that we want to build around this team and so far it’s working well. Everyone is really enjoying themselves. They’ve been willing to work extra hard and as we saw yesterday, when the pressure moments came yesterday, our boys were willing to stand up and get the job done. So that’s what we’re trying to create and build and hopefully, that’ll be good enough to take us somewhere near winning enough to qualify for the final this year,” he said.