Pant to lead Delhi Capitals in IPL 2024 but will not keep wicket in first half

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Rishabh Pant will start IPL 2024 as Delhi Capitals’ captain but will not keep wicket in the first half of the season, franchise co-owner Parth Jindal has said. In a chat with ESPNcricinfo, Jindal also said Capitals were expecting South Africa fast bowler Anrich Nortje to be fit to play from their opening game, against Punjab Kings on March 23.

Jindal said the Capitals think-tank, led by the team director Sourav Ganguly and head coach Ricky Ponting, was confident about Pant starting the IPL, subject to fitness clearance from the BCCI which is imminent.

“Rishabh is batting. He’s running. He has started his wicketkeeping. He is likely to be fully fit for the IPL,” Jindal said on Thursday. “I am expecting Rishabh to play IPL and he will lead from match one. First seven games we are going to play him only as a batter and depending on how his body reacts, we will take a call for the rest of the IPL.”

The IPL will mark Pant’s return to competitive cricket since the Test series in Bangladesh in December 2022. After his horrific car crash on December 30, 2022, Pant has worked hard to make a remarkable recovery post successful surgeries to three major knee ligaments in his right leg. Having told his doctors that he would shave at least six months off their prescribed time of recovery, Pant played practice matches in Bengaluru this week, which were organised by the National Cricket Academy.

On Tuesday, Pant also posted a video on his Instagram doing some wicketkeeping and mobility drills, which have become part of his lower-body conditioning over the past six weeks. On Wednesday, he batted and fielded in a 20-over match, which comprised a series of match simulation exercises. The game was overseen by the BCCI medical staff. There were no visible concerns. Pant is expected to play at least a few more such games before joining Capitals. Once the BCCI clearance comes, he will join the side for a preparatory camp in Visakhapatnam, where the team will also play two home matches.

With the second half of WPL 2024 – comprising 11 games including the playoffs – set to be played at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi, the Capitals men’s team had to shift their home base for the early part of the IPL to ensure they didn’t start on tried pitches. In the 21-day IPL schedule released on Thursday, Capitals are scheduled to play two home and three away matches. Jindal confirmed the team would return to Delhi for their remaining five home games.

Anrich Nortje ‘good to go for first game’

Nortje, who has been out of action for a while because of injuries, is good to go and is also expected to join the camp in Visakhapatnam, Jindal said. Nortje had recovered from a groin injury to play ten matches for the side in the 2023 season before heading home for personal reasons. He was retained by the franchise ahead of the 2024 auction.

While he played the inaugural season of Major League Cricket in the USA, he pulled out of the ODI series at home against Australia in September following a suspected stress fracture in the back and was eventually ruled out of the ODI World Cup as well. Doubts about his availability for IPL persisted after he did not play the SA20 either.

“He’s fit,” Jindal said. “Right now, he is bowing at 80% intensity. Next week, he will bowl at 100%. He’s going to make his comeback in the IPL. He is going to join our camp and should be good to go for our first game.”

Jindal also said Australia fast bowler Jhye Richardson is unlikely to be fit for the initial part of the tournament as he recovers from a side strain that had ruled him out of the latter half of the BBL as well as the home ODI series against West Indies. Richardson was bought by Capitals at the mini-auction in December for INR 5 crore (US$ 602,000 approx).

“He’s touch and go but will definitely be available for some part of IPL,” Jindal said.

Harry Brook set for No. 6 role

Jindal was confident Capitals would make the playoffs mainly because Pant’s return provided the right balance to the team. He also said Tristan Stubbs and Mitchell Marsh made the team a well-rounded unit.

“We feel very confident, the balance of the team is a lot better with Rishabh coming back in,” he said. “We have a very good squad and a lot of options with players like Tristan Stubbs, who had a phenomenal SA20 [with champions Sunrisers Eastern Cape], and Mitch Marsh becoming captain of Australia’s T20I team.”

Jindal is also expecting big things from David Warner and is looking forward to Harry Brook playing a key role in the lower middle order. The IPL will be the first tournament for Brook since he opted out of England’s Test series in India for personal reasons. Brook is expected to be among the four first-choice overseas players at Capitals alongside Warner, Marsh and Nortje. “He is going to be a big player for us at No. 6,” Jindal said.

Another key reason behind Jindal’s optimism for this season is the recruitment of a fresh batch of uncapped Indian players who, he said, were scouted and recommended by Ganguly. Among the uncapped Indians bought by Capitals at the auction are Jharkhand wicketkeeper-batter Kumar Kushagra, Haryana allrounder Sumit Kumar and Madhya Pradesh batter Ricky Bhui (who is currently the leading run-scorer in Ranji Trophy).

“We know our younger Indian players [better], we know which players to back in what positions a lot better than we did in the last season,” Jindal said. “A lot of credit goes to the systems and processes put in place by Dada [Ganguly].”



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