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Rishabh Pant expressed a mix of excitement and nervousness about his upcoming return to competitive cricket

Rishabh Pant expressed a mix of excitement and nervousness about his upcoming return to competitive cricket

Rishabh Pant’s return to competitive cricket during IPL 2024 is anticipated to be one of the most exciting events of the upcoming season. After sustaining potentially life-threatening injuries in a car crash in December 2022, the wicket-keeper batter spent the entirety of 2023 in rehabilitation, missing out on major events like the ODI World Cup at home.

Earlier this week, the BCCI declared Pant fit to play both as a batter and wicket-keeper, strengthening the case for his future in cricket. With just over a week left for IPL 2024, Pant expressed his excitement at rejoining Delhi Capitals while also admitting to feeling nervous.

“Really excited but at the same time, nervous also,” said Pant on the Club Prairie Fire podcast, which also featured former cricketers Adam Gilchrist and Michael Vaughan. “When you are sitting outside, talking and having fun, it’s okay, but once you take the field, it’s a different atmosphere altogether. Little nervous but I think that comes with the game, part and parcel of the process. Excited because I don’t know how I’m going to be on the field. Having fun each and every day, thinking positive.”

Pant’s return will strengthen Delhi Capitals, who had a challenging 2023 season, finishing second from bottom on the points table. Apart from getting their captain back, DC also had a successful outing at the auction this year, adding Harry Brook and Tristan Stubbs to their batting options, though Brook has since opted out due to personal reasons. Pant expressed his satisfaction with the squad assembled by the team management at the mini-auction.

“I think mostly I’m pleased with it (DC squad) because in a mini-auction, you can’t do much about it. You have to work around whatever goal you have. Some setbacks may come, but then setbacks are part of life. Really excited about the squad.”

A strong IPL performance could enhance Pant’s chances of returning to the national team, particularly with the T20 World Cup scheduled for June. His fitness will be closely monitored, given the physical demands of wicket-keeping, especially after recovering from a serious injury.

“As a player, you want to get back to international cricket, but at the same time, I don’t want to think too much. It is in the back of my mind, but whatever is on my plate right now, I have to think about it right now. Keeping it simple because the world that we live in is complicated anyway. So, keeping things simple is the best way I think about it. One thing I missed is being around my team and having fun with teammates.”

Known for his aggressive batting style, Pant’s approach has evolved since his U19 days in 2016. He emphasized the importance of keeping things simple in his game.

“I think it’s part of the learning process. It didn’t come overnight. You have to figure out how to make it happen because when things go south, everyone blames you like crazy. You have to believe in yourself because nobody else is there. The good part I did is not to think too much. You don’t have to think too much about playing in a certain way. Yes, you have to be positive, but you have to just see the ball and play the ball. Mindset is positive. End of the day, you have to play the ball. You can’t push yourself to play a ball whether right or wrong, just because you have to play a certain way. Cricket tells you how to play. You can’t decide that you can only play this way and enter the field.”

Pant also discussed England’s aggressive approach to Test cricket under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum, suggesting that teams should focus on their own strengths rather than trying to emulate others.

“We aren’t thinking about it (Bazball) too much. As a team, you have to find your own strengths. Yes, you have to take the knowledge about how they are playing, but at the end of it, you have to focus on your own strengths and give your best shot instead of thinking about the other team,” Pant said.

Offering advice to England ahead of their Ashes campaign in Australia, Pant suggested that cutting the ball rather than punching it could be more effective on Australian pitches.

“I would say that as a batter, instead of just punching the ball, I’d just say to cut the ball. If you punch the ball, you have more chance of getting the edge but the cut shot is a safer shot to play there. It’s the best place to play the cut shot and pull shots. They bowl mostly back of the length, they don’t bowl the fuller ones on the stumps, they bowl it wider line. I think in England, punching the ball would be a better option due to their conditions but in Australia, it’s better to cut the ball than punch the ball.”

Pant also emphasized the need for extra pace in England’s bowling attack to succeed in Australia, where faster bowlers have historically been more effective.

“I think we need a bit more pace bowling in Australia, 130s is fresh for batting. Even if he is bowling here and there, it’s fine, but you need bowlers in the 140s in Australia.”

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