Delhi Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting thinks the franchise will find it hard to fill the void created by Rishabh Pant's absence in the upcoming Indian Premier League. Pant, DC's captain and wicket-keeper, was involved in a near-fatal car crash late last year and has been out of action since.
Speaking at a team event in New Delhi on Friday, Ponting said the Capitals would want to make a gesture towards Pant during the tournament.
“In an ideal world for me, he’d be sitting next to me in the dugout every match. But if that’s not possible, we’d like to make him part of the team in ways possible. We can have his number on our shirts or on caps. Just to make it clear that he’s our leader, even if he’s not with us,” said Ponting.
“He is the heart and soul of the Delhi Capitals, he is a Delhi boy, he is our leader.”
“I have spoken to Rishabh Pant in the last few months. Also have tried to give him his own time and space. Obviously, it’s a very, very difficult time that he is going through right now. It is going to be a long recovery, a long way back to playing, hopefully, international cricket again,” he added.
Sarfaraz Khan likely to take the gloves
Talking about the IPL 2023, Ponting admitted that the management will have a hard time replacing Pant in the side. Sarfaraz Khan has been training to keep wickets in the upcoming season but they haven't finalised it yet.
“We haven’t decided that yet. Sarfaraz (Khan) has joined us and we’ll look at the practice games ahead to decide that. That’s one big hole Rishabh leaves behind. With the impact player rule coming in, we can use a number of ways (to find the best team combination),” Ponting said.
Sarfaraz Khan burst onto the IPL stage in an impressive style but has gone off the radar since despite piling on runs for fun in the domestic circuit. With Pant unavailable, Sarfaraz is likely to be a certain starter in the playing XI.
The only other wicket-keeper option in the squad is Phil Salt but including him in the playing XI will disturb their entire line-up. David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Rovman Powell and Anrich Nortje are the four players who are likely to form the overseas set in most of the matches.
Pant has been an integral part of Delhi Capitals side ever since his debut. He has amassed 2,838 IPL runs from 98 matches at a strike rate of 148.
In Pant's absence, Australian superstar Warner was named as the stand-in skipper for this season. Warner has been one of the best players in the league, having scored 5881 runs at a strike rate of 141. He has been the highest run-scorer of the tournament thrice and has won a title as the captain, leading Sunrisers Hyderabad to victory in 2016.
Delhi Capitals will begin their 2023 campaign with an away match versus Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) on April 1.