Kolkata: The young and restless - it’s a phrase which often sits well with the new generation. However, if you are the captain of a title-aspirant IPL franchise, the first choice wicketkeeper-batsman for India in all formats and a long shot as a future captain, then you need a calm head on your shoulders - and that’s what Rishabh Pant seems to have acquired over the past year and-a-half.
As Delhi Capitals resume their campaign in the UAE leg of IPL 2021 against Sunrisers Hyderabad in Dubai on Wednesday, they are well poised at the second position in the table - but the biggest concern of their coaches and players had been to maintain the momentum after a four-month break. The side has enough experience in its ranks to know that a loss of momentum in the first couple of matches and the going can suddenly get tough even for the most in-form of teams.
Back from a marathon tour of England, which had been bit of a chequered one for Pant at a personal level after having gone through a bout of Covid-19 and an indifferent run with the bat, he is all set to begin the UAE leg of IPL as a new campaign. ‘‘The performance of our first leg definitely counts, but now we focus on one match at a time. We need to focus on the process,’’ the young captain said - echoing shades of his idol Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
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The choice of Pant as a skipper after the unfortunate shoulder injury to Shreyas Iyer early this year did raise a few eyebrows - especially when their roster boasted at least four former IPL skippers in Steve Smith, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravichandran Ashwin. However, the ownership believed in a process of continuity as Pant had been the deputy of Shreyas Iyer for the last couple of seasons - apart from the fact that they wanted to look ahead.
There were a few odd technical glitches when he led the squad through eight matches in the first leg, but Pant managed to work his charm on the team and the seniors were only happy to rally around him. Asked during a virtual interaction with him and head coach Ricky Ponting about his vision as a captain, Pant said: ‘‘I try to keep the environment light. The team has a good combination of youth and experience and that makes my job easier.’’
What about his own ‘process’ as a skipper? ‘‘I have learnt a lot about it from Ricky. If you respect each and every player, irrespective of their senior or junior status, you should be able to earn the respect of everyone,’’ said the dasher.
Ponting, meanwhile, was effusive about the growth of Pant as a player and captain under him over the last four years. ‘‘His level of maturity has gone through the roof and to be honest, I didn’t see that coming. He has grown as a player to be a regular in all three formats for India now. He was an exceptional vice-captain to Shreyas and now as captain, he is striving to make things happen,’’ the former Australian captain added.