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A note to Rishabh Pant

by Gaurav Sethi

 To Rishabh Rajendra Pant, the man who lets go of his bat but not his team

Dear Rishabh, 

Hard luck on the CSK defeat. Or was it? There is so much second guessing, thinking ahead, what if this happens, then this, then that, that the team management seems to be in denial of what there is – what makes Delhi Capitals intimidating.

What makes it intimidating?

What comes to mind first, the quick bowlers? Right. But more than that, who’s the poster boy, captain, Team India regular – who has more job security in this team that anyone.

It’s you. YOU.

Delhi Capitals is you.

For now, at least. 

There have been times when you have had to be conservative, hold back, go slow, for that was how it was. 

And yet you made the final. That worked. You and Shreyas Iyer had to play the role of nourisher, sustainer, bat time, get to a total.

Here we are, in October 2021. It’s still so much the same. There is this denial in Delhi.

Some of it has changed, somehow, Shimron Hetmyer gets to play more than he sits out.

Dhawan-Shaw open more than they don’t. Rahane hasn’t played a match yet.

But these are all largely peripheral.

What part of the team or you doesn’t still accept that Delhi Capitals is you. YOU.

That, batting as many overs, getting closest to a ton, if Dhawan and Shaw can’t, you have a stab at it.

But then there are these deeply thought of, living in fear, let’s not show our hand too soon moves – such as sending Axar Patel in first.

What stopped you from going in at four and tonking the hell out of Jadeja? 

Restraint? Thinking ahead? C’mon, all that time spent with Prithvi Shaw would’ve taught you one thing: It’s now or never. 

Restraint at best lasts one delivery. At worst, two balls. 

Yet you, Rishabh, to accommodate this whole left-right shenanigan will slip lower and lower. 

What are you afraid of – being dismissed?

That doesn’t stop you from hurtling down the wicket for those kamikaze singles first ball. 

So, let’s shove fear out of it then. What is it? Deep thought, analysis, computers, an instinct to lengthen Delhi’s top heavy batting?

Best of luck, you’ll need it in Sharjah. You’ll need it against Sunil Narine and his spinning friends. 

They just scorched RCB in Sharjah. 

Kohli bowled Narine. de Villiers bowled Narine. Four out of seven wickets to Narine. Narine going at nothing runs per over – 5.25 to be precise. Varun Chakravarty at 5, Shakib at a lofty 6 runs per over.

This is Sharjah. At some point it will start resembling the Feroz Shah Kotla pitch. It will bring back all those years of a home ground that wasn’t suited to its home team.

It will bring back memories of a team packed with quicks and Amit Mishra. No wonder Mishra has all those IPL wickets. Or is that a coincidence too?

Ashwin has closed one game in this second leg – he’s done it with the bat. With the ball, he bowled 2 overs against CSK, one against RCB. Before that, he bowled his full quota in four out of five matches in the U.A.E. 

Perhaps if Ashwin played against all those Delhi left handers, you’d bowl him four overs. 

In the first Eliminator, do you know who opened the bowling against left handed Devdutt Padikkal? It was left arm spinner, Shakib Al Hassan. 

By now you probably have some sense of a captain’s instincts – perhaps that’s what made you bowl Tom Curran in the last over to MS Dhoni in the Qualifier. It went against the more obvious Rabada-Dhoni match ups. But then even before match-ups were a thing, some dude called Joginder Sharma bowled the last over in a World T20 Final.

From that day, from that team, there are still a few Indian cricketers on the IPL circuit: there’s Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Robin Uthappa.   

Yes, 63 off 44 balls vs Delhi Uthappa. He played squat before this: 2 matches this season, 21 runs. It was probably some skipper’s instinct that steered him to three that day.  

It could well have been a skipper’s instinct that steered Dan Christian to bowl the last over against KKR. 

What we do know is that neither Kohli nor you have won the IPL as captain or player. 

While Kohli has stepped down, you may have to step up.

There is no better time to bat than the powerplay on these tricky Sharjah pitches. 

That could be negated somewhat by the early introduction of spin. Which in-turn could be negated by the early introduction of Rishabh Pant.

Don’t forget, before DC captain, DC wicketkeeper, Jindal Steel Brand Ambassador, you are Rishabh Pant the man who bats. 

Who no matter what, has his Test batting conscience somewhere deep within him. Isn’t that how this recent Delhi Capitals’ captaincy has come along?

Yet why, why does it always feel that you score faster in Tests than in T20s? This is beyond strike rates, this is about perception; this is about success. It’s about setting up wins, closing wins, winning wins. It’s about injecting fear in the opposition. 

You bat long and deep in Tests, leave 20 overs, you have the measure of many times that. 

Go. Out there. On the field. Soak in the stifling humidity. And enjoy those 11 fielders sweat some more. Revel in it. Break the game. 

You are 24 years old. Not nearly 33. Not above 40.

You are 24. You are Rishabh Pant. You are Delhi Capitals. 

You are also the silly squeal at losing the toss. Go Rishabh, have as much fun playing in the middle as you do with most things on the sidelines. 


Gaurav Sethi

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