The Delhi Capitals supporters were buoyed to see Rishabh Pant at the IPL 2024 auction table with the other team management staff. It was an indication in the air that the flamboyant wicketkeeper-batter could return to the field for the 17th season of the IPL.
With his involvement in the selection of the team at the showpiece event in Dubai this month, Rishabh Pant is certainly set to take back the captaincy reins from star Australian batter David Warner. It should be a no-brainer that Warner needs to be taken off the leadership role following their dismal run in IPL 2023, where they managed five wins from 14 matches to finish in ninth place. This was the first time in five years that the team languished at the bottom side of the points table.
The biggest question pondering around the auction table was whether Rishabh Pant could lead the Capitals to its elusive title, as the title of this piece suggests. But tweaking the question further. Let’s ask. Can Rishabh Pant lead Delhi Capitals to their first IPL final? And that’s where the focus should be.
Delhi is the only team from the inception of the cash-rich league in 2008, which is yet to make an appearance in an IPL final. In the 10-team event, Lucknow Super Giants is the only other side to miss the summit clash, though the latter has featured in just two seasons. Before moving ahead, let’s check the player’s captaincy record in the league.
What’s Rishabh Pant’s IPL captaincy record?
Rishabh Pant was appointed the captain of the Delhi Capitals ahead of the IPL 2021 after Shreyas Iyer was ruled out of the season due to a shoulder injury. In his first season as the team captain, Pant took Delhi Capitals to the top of the points table with 10 wins and four losses.
Delhi missed their best opportunity to qualify for the finals after successive defeats in close contests against Chennai Super Kings in Qualifier 1 and Kolkata Knight Riders in Qualifier 2. The following season, DC finished fifth on the table with seven wins and as many defeats in the league stage.
Rishabh Pant missed the complete IPL 2023 after a horrific car accident at the start of the year, which forced him out of action for a year now. He has led the side in 30 IPL games, having won 16 matches and lost 13, with a win percentage of 53.33. Only Virender Sehwag has a better win record (53.84) as a captain of the franchise (with captains to lead in more than 15 IPL games).
What does Rishabh Pant need to guide his team to IPL final?
Rishabh Pant is a dynamic captain as well as a great thinker of the game. He brings his aggression on the field to push his players to a certain level from what they can offer. Rishabh utilized Kuldeep Yadav well in the middle overs in IPL 2022, resulting in the bowler getting back to his rhythm.
He will have to be spot-on with his on-field calls without losing his cool. Calling back Rovman Powell against Rajasthan Royals when the no-ball decision was against their favor which wasn’t an ideal call. The approach and body language will always be under scrutiny.
The important decision-making will be the team selection, particularly with the overseas lots. He might take a bit to understand the impact rule which was introduced last season only. Rishabh will have to identify his team’s strengths and avoid external experts’ opinions. During the Qualifier 1 against CSK in IPL 2021, he didn’t bowl Kagiso Rabada in the final over and instead entrusted Tom Curran.
Here’s where he will have to understand when to take risks and at what point of the game. The other element will be interesting to see how can he get the best from the youngsters of the squads with players such as Kumar Kushagra, Vicky Ostwal, Yash Dhull, and Rasikh Salem. The better he breaks the player management task in the early phase of the season, it will certainly reap the rewards.
The answer to the question is ‘yes’ Rishabh Pant can lead the Delhi Capitals to their first IPL title but it will be an upheaval for him to come straight into the captain’s role after missing the game for more than a year.