New Delhi, April 22: Sourav Ganguly and Ricky Ponting, the director of cricket and head coach at Delhi Capitals, have backed wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant to be included in India’s 15-member squad for the upcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, which is expected to be announced by the end of this month. Since his return to competitive cricket following a layoff of 14 months and 28 days due to injuries suffered in a life-threatening car accident in December 2022, Pant has amassed 254 runs in eight innings at a strike rate of 150.29, including two half-centuries. Sourav Ganguly Backs Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma to Open For India in ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024.

"Yes, I think so. I want every young player to play, but unfortunately, we can pick only 15. The better and equipped ones play, which is a part of the sport. Pant is definitely in that bracket, and I am sure he would go to the West Indies (as part of the T20 World Cup squad). He should bat in the middle order," said Ganguly in a select media interaction organised by the franchise on Monday. He has been mainly a middle-order batter and donned keeping gloves in every match, where he’s shown to be comfortable in being behind the stumps. Pant is in competition with Sanju Samson, K.L. Rahul, Ishan Kishan, Dinesh Karthik and Jitesh Sharma for the wicketkeeper-batter slot in India’s squad for the mega event.

"It’s very difficult to say in T20 cricket as lots of things happen, like matchups or right-left combinations, as well as depending on who bowls and what the situation is. It won’t be possible to say that he should bat at either number three, five or seven. It works in Tests, to a certain extent in ODIs, but T20 is very quick and doesn’t have much time. It depends on captain and situation though," stated Ganguly on what would be Pant’s ideal batting position in the India playing eleven. Star Sports Shares Promo of Indian Cricket Team for ICC T20 World Cup 2024 Featuring Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli (Watch Video)..

On the other hand, Ponting sounded optimistic about his opinion over Pant’s progression from his return game at Mullanpur last month to playing Delhi’s first match at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in the previous week. "He has gotten better and better every game. He's starting to get a bit more trust and belief in his body as well.I think early on he had been a little bit apprehensive as to what he could do, especially with the wicketkeeping side of it. With his batting, coming into the tournament, he had pretty good trust in his legs and abilities. His keeping skills have become really good with every match. I think his batting is getting better and better by the game.”

“I've been asked a lot already over the last couple of weeks, now that he's back and playing, what I think about his World Cup chances. I think he'll be in the squad for sure. I think he's too good of a player and can have too much of an impact on the game. We have been delighted to have him back and he's the heartbeat and soul of this franchise and hopefully from here on, he can help us win some more games." Virat Kohli's 50th ODI Century Features in ‘Epic Moments of 2023’ at Laureus World Sports Awards 2024.

Ponting also felt Pant hadn’t changed much as a cricketer post the accident but credited him for putting in real hard yards to get back to playing competitive cricket again. “Look, I don't think he's changed much as a cricketer, to be honest. I think the way he thinks about life now might be a little bit different than it was beforehand. He faced pretty terrifying times when you think about the accident in isolation.”

“The thought of maybe never playing cricket again and not being able to do what he loves would have been a nightmare for anyone. The extent of his injury, even when I first saw him in the middle of last year's IPL, I must admit I had concerns if he was going to play again. But he's worked incredibly hard, and this franchise has been very, very supportive of doing everything they can to give him the chance to get back to full fitness again. Right now, he's not very far off from being at full fitness, I'm sure all of you guys have watched him closely every game. He's running between the wickets well, keeping really well, lost nothing with his hand-eye coordination when the gloves are on, and is moving well. When I saw him just after the accident, there wasn't much to be happy about for him. But now that he's back and playing well, he's got a smile on his face again and that's the most important thing.”

Axar Patel, the left-arm spin all-rounder, said, Rishabh has become a changed human post-accident, pointing out that he’s more mature now and has increased in patience levels. “The difference between Rishabh Pant I saw before the incident and the person I am seeing after 1.5 years; is he’s now got that maturity and is much more patient now. Whenever he talks now, I can feel that he’s talking in a mature way. Previously, he would start his talk with ‘I will do it this way’ or ‘I will do it that way’.” Hanuman Jayanti 2024: Keshav Maharaj Wishes Fans on Occasion of Birth Anniversary of Lord Hanuman, Shares Post on Instagram.

“But now he’s realised that it doesn’t happen this way and talks with a lot more patience like ‘I will take time now, I will look to finish matches. He is doing his own thing in the game, like playing the shots he’s known for. But what I have observed so far is he talks with a bit more maturity and gets less angry now. Previously, he would say angrily, ‘He did this wrong’, but not now.”

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Apr 23, 2024 01:41 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website