IPL 2024: Rishabh Pant is the centre of attention as DC open their campaign against PBKS

As skipper Rishabh Pant gets ready for Delhi Capitals' 2024 IPL campaign opener against Punjab Kings on Saturday afternoon

Mullanpur, March 22 (IANS) As skipper Rishabh Pant gets ready for Delhi Capitals’ 2024 IPL campaign opener against Punjab Kings on Saturday afternoon, he can expect to be greeted with the kind of rapturous reception from the crowd usually reserved for someone like MS Dhoni or Virat Kohli.

The highly anticipated return of a determined Pant to competitive cricket and captaincy, after going through a long road of rehabilitation for various injuries sustained in a life-threatening car accident in December 2022, has inspired and delighted millions of cricket fans across the globe.

Regardless of the runs he accumulates as a batter, decisions made as a leader and dismissals effected as a wicketkeeper (assuming he takes up the gloves), all those present at the Maharaja Yadavindra Singh International Cricket Stadium, which will also become the newest Indian Premier League (IPL) venue on Saturday, will have the absolute blessing and privilege of witnessing Pant in action.

In the visuals from the Capitals’ pre-season camp in Visakhapatnam, Pant could be seen confidently practicing various shots, including the reverse sweep, suggesting he was getting back into his groove. He also appeared in his usual cheerful self, with a bright smile on his face, which bodes well for him to smoothly adapt to the rigorous demands of playing cricket.

Apart from how Pant fares after his 14-month-long layoff, DC will see the reunion of power-packed batting trio David Warner, Prithvi Shaw, and Mitchell Marsh, along with Ricky Bhui, Tristan Stubbs, Kumar Kushagra, Jake Fraser-McGurk, and Sumit Kumar capable of getting the big runs for a franchise which struggled to click as a batting unit last year.

The presence of Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav ensures DC is well-equipped in the spin department. But an area which will concern them will be the fast bowling. Lungi Ngidi has been ruled out of the competition, while much is not known of Jhye Richardson’s fitness due to a left side strain issue since January.

Anrich Nortje is returning after a long injury layoff due to a stress fracture in the back and only recently came back to action via the CSA T20 Challenge. The experienced Ishant Sharma has been short of match practice after playing domestic cricket matches sporadically, which means the onus is high on Khaleel Ahmed and Mukesh Kumar to shoulder the fast-bowling load for DC.

On the other hand, PBKS have new additions in Harshal Patel, Rilee Rossouw, and Chris Woakes, hoping the trio will come good. They will also expect the likes of Sam Curran, Rishi Dhawan and Sikandar Raza to chip in with their all-round contributions.

Harshal and Vidwath Kaverappa add more strength to the PBKS’ Indian bowling contingent featuring Arshdeep Singh, Rahul Chahar and Harpreet Brar. In batting, they have the services of Jonny Bairstow, Liam Livingstone, Jitesh Sharma, Atharva Taide, Prabhsimran Singh, and skipper Shikhar Dhawan, but they still have a notable gap in the absence of middle-order Indian batters.

So far, the Indian Premier League hasn’t been influenced by an individual player’s return to playing the sport. On Saturday, passionate fans will fill the atmosphere in Mullanpur, which has shown a penchant for being batting-friendly in domestic matches, with palpable excitement as they come together to root for Pant’s incredible comeback and witness the beginning of a new chapter in his cricket journey.

Squads:

Delhi Capitals: Rishabh Pant (c), Prithvi Shaw, David Warner, Kuldeep Yadav, Khaleel Ahmed, Axar Patel, Mukesh Kumar, Mitchell Marsh, Anrich Nortje, Pravin Dubey, Vicky Ostwal, Abishek Porel, Jake Fraser-McGurk, Lalit Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Yash Dhull, Tristan Stubbs, Ricky Bhui, Kumar Kushagra, Rasikh Dar, Jhye Richardson, Sumit Kumar, Shai Hope and Swastik Chhikara.

Punjab Kings: Shikhar Dhawan (c), Jitesh Sharma, Jonny Bairstow, Prabhsimran Singh, Liam Livingstone, Matthew Short, Harpreet Bhatia, Atharva Taide, Rishi Dhawan, Sam Curran, Sikandar Raza, Shivam Singh, Harpreet Brar, Arshdeep Singh, Kagiso Rabada, Nathan Ellis, Rahul Chahar, Gurnoor Brar, Vidwath Kaverappa, Harshal Patel, Chris Woakes, Ashutosh Sharma, Shashank Singh, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Tanay Thyagarajan, Prince Choudhary, Rilee Rossouw

The match will start at 3:30 pm on Star Sports (TV) and JioCinema (mobile).

–IANS/nr/bsk/

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