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Delhi Capitals' captain Rishabh Pant in action during the Indian Premier League match at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi. Image Credit: AFP

New Delhi: Cricket greats Sourav Ganguly and Ricky Ponting on Monday backed India star Rishabh Pant to play the T20 World Cup in June after his return to the Indian Premier League following a serious car crash.

Pant, a wicketkeeper-batsman, took the field in the T20 tournament this season as captain of Delhi Capitals after 14 months away from top-level cricket due to the crash.

Looked sharp

The 26-year-old left-handed batter has scored 254 runs including two half-centuries in eight matches and looked sharp behind the wickets.

“I want every young player to play but unfortunately we can only pick 15,” Ganguly, who is Delhi’s Director of Cricket, told reporters on Pant’s India selection.

“The (more) equipped, the better one’s play ... I feel Pant is definitely in that bracket. And I am sure he will go to the West Indies.”

Ganguly said Pant’s ability to hit “big sixes” makes him stand out and advised the Indian players to “just play without fear”.

Batting getting better

Delhi head coach Ponting said he was sure Indian selectors would choose Pant for the T20’s showpiece tournament beginning June 1 in the West Indies and the United States.

“I think his batting is getting better and better by the game,” Ponting said, calling Pant the “heart and soul” of the franchise.

“I think he has started to get a bit more trust and belief in his body as well. His keeping skills behind the stumps have been really good,” he added.

“He is too good a player and can have too much of an impact on the game for India not to select him in the squad.”

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Ganguly feels Virat Kohli should open with Rohit Sharma in the World Cup. Image Credit: AFP

Virat-Rohit ‘should open’ batting

Pant crashed his car north of New Delhi in December 2022, suffering multiple injuries when the vehicle rammed into a crash barrier, flipped over and caught fire.

He underwent an intensive rehabilitation programme after the crash left him with a damaged ligament in his right knee, a hurt wrist and ankle, and abrasions to his back.

Pant has played 129 internationals for India across three formats, scoring 4,123 runs, including six centuries.

Ganguly, one of India’s most successful captains, also said Virat Kohli “should open” as a T20 batter with Rohit Sharma in the World Cup, after some critics suggested the veteran is too slow by modern-day standards.

Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s Kohli leads the IPL batting chart with 379 runs including hitting the first century of this season off 67 balls.

Comparisons have been drawn with Sunrisers Hyderabad opener Travis Head, who got his ton in 39 balls and has guided his team to record IPL totals of 277 and 287.

“Virat Kohli has got the capability of getting a 40-ball hundred also,” Ganguly, also ex-chief of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, said.

“With the talent they have, (India) just need to go and hit. The mindset should be to hit.”