DC batsman Rishabh Pant plays a shot during their Indian Premier League 2019 match against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Image Credit: Courtesy: BCCI

Dubai: Rishabh Pant, through a daring match-winning performance that helped Delhi Capitals subdue Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League Eliminator on Wednesday evening, once again emphatically displayed that Team India have committed a big blunder by not picking him for the World Cup. Not as a wicketkeeper, but as a batsman who can challenge any attack, he deserved a place in the Indian team.

Pant’s knock of 49 under tremendous pressure that took the game away from Hyderabad speaks volumes about this 21-year-old’s fighting spirit. As soon as Indian selectors announced that Pant was being dropped as they needed an experienced wicketkeeper such as Dinesh Karthik as back up to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, many felt that he deserved to be in the squad as his skills as a batsman alone can lift the team in the middle overs. All his big knocks in the IPL are proof of what a brilliant match-winner he is at such an young age and each time he has played a good knock, the team has emerged triumphant.

All eyes will be on Pant again on Friday when Delhi take on Chennai Super Kings in the second qualifier in Visakhapatnam. He has piled up 450 runs from the 15 IPL matches this season and if Delhi make it to the final of the IPL for the first time, Pant’s role will be significant.

The Delhi-based franchise have never made it to IPL final and will be eager to come up with yet another inspirational performance from Pant and set up a summit clash with the Mumbai Indians.

However, Shreyas Iyer would be wary of the fact that they cannot take Chennai lightly even though the defending champions were completely outplayed in the first qualifier against Mumbai.

“We’re definitely not going to be intimidated by any team. Looking forward to the next game,” Iyer said.

What goes in Delhi’s favour is their fearless brand of cricket, which they have displayed throughout this season and their fans will be hoping for another such performance — especially from Pant — against Chennai.

Indian team chief selector MSK Prasad had categorically stated that it was not Pant’s batting skills that resulted in him being ignored for the World Cup. It is unfortunate that his inexperience as wicketkeeper has denied him a place from displaying his skills as a batsman in the World Cup. In fact, he is among the cleanest hitters in the country and his ability to pick the right ball to hit them for sixes is splendid.

After receiving the man of the match award on Wednesday, Pant revealed the secret behind his ability to play such shots with confidence. “I just try to be positive,” he said. “If your mindset is negative, it doesn’t help. Especially in T20s, you need 40 off 20 (balls) or so, then you have to attack one bowler.”

On Wednesday, he picked the unfortunate Basil Thampi to score 22 runs off the over to tilt the match in Delhi’s favour.

Pant shapes his batting style by putting in a lot of thought into it. It was evident from his remark on his approach to batting against Sunrisers.

“If you are set on a wicket like this, you have to finish the match for your team,” he said. He fell after pushing the team close to the target and he didn’t want to repeat the same mistake again. “I took it very close, but next time I will finish it for the team.”

Pant also revealed that he never looks at who the bowler is when going for his shots. “I practise every day with the same set of bowlers and I only watch the ball and not the bowler. Today I didn’t try to hit it too hard and focused on timing.”

If Pant, after hitting those five powerful sixes still feels that he did not hit hard, then one can imagine how his sixes will be in future with experience. For Pant, who has a natural flair to time his shots, runs are bound to flow easily from his bat.

Catch the Match

Qualifier 2
Chennai Super Kings v Delhi Capitals
Match Broadcast on beIN SPORTS 13