Ponting surprised by Pant omission from World Cup squad

“Knowing what talent he’s got, I’ll be surprised if he’s not played three World Cups by the end of his career,” states the Delhi Capitals head coach.

Rishabh Pant (left) and Ricky Ponting at a training session at the Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi on Wednesday.   -  SANDEEP SAXENA

Having classified Rishabh Pant as a cricketer with the “x-factor,” Ricky Ponting was surprised at his omission from India’s 15-man squad for the World Cup.

“I thought he’ll be in the starting XI, to be honest. Someone like him batting at No. 4 or 5, whatever. He’s that sort of player where he could have had that x-factor about him. He could have been the difference between India and another 10 teams in the World Cup. So, yes, I was surprised but I don’t understand the reasons why,” Ponting stated at the Feroz Shah Kotla here on Wednesday ahead of Delhi Capitals’ Indian Premier League (IPL) contest against Mumbai Indians.

Pant has taken the news of his omission well, Ponting confirmed.

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“I had a quick chat with him on Monday night. He seems to have taken it pretty well. There’s no doubt that he’s disappointed. I’m sure he would have loved to be in that squad. But the thing about him that we have to remember is he’s still very very young. He’s going to potentially play three World Cups in the course of his career. I’m really happy that the decision has been made now, he can just focus on being the best player that he can be for the Capitals in the back half of this tournament,” Ponting said.

“One thing we know about Indian cricket is that there is a lot of depth around the batting side of things. Unfortunately, this time, Rishabh’s the one who has missed out but knowing what he’s like and knowing what talent he’s got, I’ll be surprised if he’s not played three World Cups by the end of his career,” Ponting said.

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Looking ahead to the contest on Thursday, Ponting said, “We’re well-placed. You can’t take anything for granted in this tournament. We’ve won three games in a row; yes, we’ve won five games out of eight but that doesn’t mean anything. We know we’re going to need eight wins at least to qualify for the playoffs. I think the boys have taken a lot of confidence from each one of those [last three] games, particularly in the last game against Sunrisers Hyderabad.

“We probably didn’t bat as well as we would have liked. You can see the determination and the focus in the way we went about it with the ball and on the field. It really meant something to this group of players to win that game on the road. We’ve got a new challenge for tomorrow; Mumbai is playing some really good cricket as well.

“We’ve got four games here; to win a few of those we’re getting close to that playoff stage but right now we’re the same as every other team. No team has qualified yet and we’re just exactly the same.”’

Ponting declared Capitals will be hard to beat. Commenting on the side’s struggles at home, where it lost two out of three matches, he said, “We’ve played three games [at home], we’ve won one and lost two. We’ve beaten Mumbai at [the opposition’s] home; we’ve beaten Kolkata at [its] home; [and] we’ve beaten Sunrisers at [its] home. So obviously some of those teams have issues with their home ground, too. That’s the way we look at it. At the end of the day, it’s a very even tournament. If you don’t play your best on any given day, any team can beat you; it’s as simple as that. We’re going to be hard to beat in every game going forward. We can guarantee everybody that.”