Of late, Rishabh Pant has been under a lot of scrutiny regarding his place in the Indian team, but according to the Delhi Capitals coach Ricky Ponting, there is no extra pressure on the wicketkeeper-batsman. In fact, Ponting is expecting Pant to have a "big impact" on this year's IPL, but at the same time also held that the Capitals were "more than just about one player".
Pant was the leading run-scorer for the Capitals in 2018, with 684 runs at an average of 52.61 and a strike rate of 173.60. Last year, his tally of 488 runs was second only to Shikhar Dhawan's 521 for the Capitals. The duo's contribution was important in the Capitals finishing third, and thus getting their first playoff spot since 2012. Speaking on the eve of the Capitals' first game of IPL 2020, against Kings XI Punjab in Dubai, Ponting mentioned that if Pant could repeat his last year's performance, that would hold the Capitals in "good stead".
"Every season, every game any of these guys play, it's always an important game for them - probably more so for the Indian players than the overseas guys," Ponting said when asked about how crucial this IPL would be for Pant. "But as a coaching group at Delhi Capitals, we don't put any added pressure on any of the guys. As a coaching group, what we are trying to do is take as much pressure off the players as we can. I think that's a huge part of coaching and certainly the leadership. I don't expect anything from players that they don't expect from themselves.
"Just watching Rishabh train - certainly the last week - I think he has really turned a corner, and I am expecting him to once again have a really big impact on the tournament. We know he is a match-winner and if he can win the same number of games that he won for us last year, I think that should hold us in good stead.
"I am sure Rishabh will be looking to have a big IPL tournament as he did last year and as he has done for the last couple of years for the Delhi Capitals, but we as a group are more than just about one player."
The Capitals do have an enviable top order. Apart from Pant, they have Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, captain Shreyas Iyer, Shimron Hetmyer, Ajinkya Rahane and Alex Carey in the squad. This, after Jason Roy pulled out due to a side strain and the Capitals replacing him with Australian left-arm seamer Daniel Sams. Ponting said having various batting options gave the side not only depth but also helped provide a right-left combination.
"I think we have got a lot of competition for spots this year," he said. "We have got a lot of flexibility in our whole group - and batting order as well - whichever way we decide to go. Having someone like Ajinkya Rahane coming into the squad has given us more depth to our batting, certainly our top-order batting. Shikhar last year was probably as good as anybody opening the innings.
"Prithvi, I am sure from what I have seen, looks an even better player. The skipper [Iyer] probably had his best ever 12 months as far as cementing a place in the Indian team [is concerned]. Rishabh Pant, Marcus Stoinis, Shimron Hetmyer, Alex Carey, we think we have lots of flexibility there. We have a good combination of left-hand and right-hand as well.
"The way these guys have trained and prepared over the last three weeks has been exceptional. I mentioned to them a week ago that I am not sure I have seen a group train and prepare as well as this team. And even our second-last session last night, some of the batting on display last night was an absolutely top show. So I am really excited about what our batting group and, particularly, our top order can bring to the IPL this year."