While interacting with the media on Wednesday, Rishabh Pant adopted a cavalier spirit and an innocent smile that are hallmarks of his sunny disposition on and off the cricket field. He accepted the captaincy with gratitude and did not feign his elation despite the circumstances of the team that allowed for his elevation to the role.
“I'll try to make the most of it but first of all, thank you to all my well wishers throughout my journey for supporting me through the thick and thin of my cricketing career. I would like to make this as a base and keep improving and keep making my life better and better each and every day.
“It’s a great feeling, especially getting an opportunity like this in your home town. No bigger opportunity than that. I'll try to make most of it and give my 100 percent,” he said.
Pant has never captained India before in any format but captaincy isn't a new role for him as he has led Delhi Capitals in the IPL for the last two years under the mentorship of Ricky Ponting. The Capitals have been fairly successful under him, reaching the playoffs in 2021 and imploding spectacularly in their last group game against Mumbai Indians to narrowly miss out this time.
“I think as a captain it will help me a lot because when you keep on doing the same thing over a period of time you tend to improve. I'm someone who keeps on learning from my mistakes. I think it is something which is going to help me in the future,” he said.
Lots to learn from Dravid
He was also grateful to be captain with Rahul Dravid as the head coach.
“I think it's one of the best things I would say because I was with him during my under-19 days, then I was with him in the India team, and in India 'A' and in the IPL also. So there's a lot of experience with him. He is already a legendary cricketer. I don't have to introduce him to anyone. But there's a lot of learning from him like discipline, how to conduct myself on and off the field, learning the game tactics, there is a lot to learn from.”
Pant did not reveal much about the Indian line-up or the possibility of certain inclusions. Giving opportunities to as many players as possible remained a goal, he said, but clarified that not everyone will get “the same amount of playing time.” But what he did was that the team will make changes to the way it plays to conform to the team management's goals for the long term.
“I think as a team, we have thought about certain goals, which we want to achieve as a team and we are continuously working on them because then we are thinking of the World Cup on top of our heads. So we are preparing for that. I think in the coming days, you'll see that there will be a lot of changes in the way we play cricket,” Pant said.
Pant spared a word on the heat the teams would have to deal with in the middle of summer. As he was speaking, around dusk, the temperature outside was about 40 degrees Celcius.
“This is the first time we are playing with these kinds of conditions in India after a long time. We might get dehydrated, we might get tired early, but I think it's part and parcel of the game. We just have to keep improving and not think about the heat too much, focus on game tactics.”
Pant's South African counterpart Temba Bavuma was also concerned about the hot weather.
“The hardest thing is just coping with the heat. Hydration is obviously a big thing here, cramping is obviously a big thing here. Fatiguing is a big thing. We don't have a lot of time. You just get used to it by playing in this type of heat. Unfortunately we'll have to do it in competitive games,” Bavuma said.
Hydration was essential in such conditions, felt Bavuma.
“All the preparation we do leading up to the games is important. Hydrate yourself as much as you can. Preserve your energies as much as you can. Try and recover well in and around the game. Once you there in the game, you try to stay in the battle. Hopefully your body keep up with everything.”
Bavuma said he would like the Protea top order to be more settled than it is.
“From our side as a team, we won't be expecting anything easy. We arent here thinking everything is going to happen the same way as it happened in South Africa back home. We know we're going to play cricket and prepare well which i think we've done. But it's an exciting series lined up for everyone,” he said.