At 23, Pant will become the fifth-youngest captain in the IPL
Rishabh Pant has been appointed the Delhi Capitals captain for the 2021 IPL. The development comes in the wake of the Capitals’ regular captain Shreyas Iyer being ruled of the season after he dislocated his left shoulder during the ODI series against England. This is the first captaincy assignment for Pant in the IPL, who was bought by the Capitals before the 2016 IPL and then became the first player to be retained ahead of the 2018 mega auction.
At 23, Pant will become the fifth-youngest captain in the IPL after Virat Kohli, Steven Smith, Suresh Raina and Iyer. While Kohli and Smith assumed leadership at 22, Raina and Iyer were 23 too but younger in terms of days than Pant.
Despite his inexperience, Pant was one of the frontrunners in the captaincy race to replace Iyer along with the senior Indian pair of R Ashwin and Ajinkya Rahane, who had long leadership stints at Kings XI Punjab and the Rajasthan Royals, respectively. Pant had only led Delhi in domestic cricket, but he has been in phenomenal form as a match-winner for India recently, starting with the historic Test series win in Australia followed by the series win across the three formats against England at home.
Pant was “humbled” to take on the captaincy, which, he admitted, was a “dream” from the time he started playing for the Capitals.
“Delhi is where I grew up, and where my IPL journey began six years ago,” Pant said in a Capitals media release. “To lead this team one day is a dream I’ve always harboured. And today, as that dream comes true, I feel humbled.”
Iyer, who is awaiting surgery on his hand, said Pant was the “best man” to take charge at the Capitals in his absence. “I had no doubt that Rishabh would be the best man for the job,” Iyer said in the media release.
The decision to appoint Pant was taken collectively by the franchise co-owners Kiran Kumar Grandhi and Parth Jindal along with the Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting.
In the 2016 auction, the Capitals (then Delhi Daredevils) bought Pant for INR 1.9 crore and in 2018, he got INR 15 crore (USD 2 million approx). In 2022, the IPL will host a mega auction where teams will overhaul squads while being able to retain a few players. Pant will once again be expected to be the first retention on the Capitals’ auction sheet. Along with Iyer, he is expected to be among the core group of players.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for young Rishabh, who is coming off successful stints against Australia and England which will no doubt give him the confidence needed to take on a new role that comes with a lot more responsibility.”
The development marks a turnaround of sorts for Pant since the 2020 IPL. Pant had entered last IPL, which was played in the UAE, on the back of some strong words from the Indian team management, with his shot selection coming under the scanner.
Although the Capitals reached the IPL final last season, Pant’s batting remained under par by his standards. Overall, he made 342 runs in 14 innings at a strike rate of just 114 and an average of 31, with just one half-century.
The Indian selectors wanted Pant to work on his fitness and did not include him in the squads for India’s limited-overs segments on the Australia tour. Despite the snub, Pant ended the Border-Gavaskar Trophy as India’s best batsman, including setting up the historic win on the final day of the Brisbane Test, where several of India’s frontline players were absent.
Pant then dominated England both in the Test series as well as the white-ball segments, with some adventurous and dominant strokeplay including the memorable reverse scoop against James Anderson in the Test series against England.
Ponting said Pant now had a “tremendous opportunity” to bring that form in the IPL. “The previous two seasons under Shreyas’ leadership have been incredible, and the results speak for themselves,” Ponting said in the media release. “This is a tremendous opportunity for young Rishabh, who is coming off successful stints against Australia and England which will no doubt give him the confidence needed to take on a new role that comes with a lot more responsibility.”
According to Jindal, Pant with his brand of cricket “embodied” the ethos of the Capitals. “Delhi Capitals as a team plays a passionate and fearless brand of cricket, and Rishabh Pant embodies that best. The Delhi team has played an important role in his growth as a cricketer, just like he has played an equally important role in the growth of the Delhi team.”
With stats inputs from Sampath Bandarupalli
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo