IPL 2024: Rishabh Pant emerges as the brightest star in left-handed batters’ dominated run-fest

New Delhi, April 25 (IANS): Spotting the brightest star during a full moon night can sometimes become a tough ask. When the full moon is incredibly bright and illuminates the night sky on its own, it means just the brightest stars, planets, and constellations are visible to the naked eye.

On a Wednesday night, with a full moon illuminating the sky, the Arun Jaitley Stadium witnessed a topsy-turvy game between Delhi Capitals and Gujarat Titans, where total runs scored by both teams exceeded 400. In the exhilarating run-fest, left-handed batters from both teams overwhelmingly took the center stage, but it was Rishabh Pant, the Delhi Capitals skipper, who emerged as the brightest star.

Sure, Axar Patel expertly negated the threat possessed by Rashid Khan and Noor Ahmad by taking 46 runs off their combined 25 deliveries to make his number three promotion count with a 43-ball 66 and be the aggressor in his 113-run stand with Pant.

Add to that, B Sai Sudharsan’s steady 39-ball 65 and David Miller’s quick 23-ball 55 kept GT in the hunt of chasing 225, of which they fell short by four runs. But none came close to being as enthralling, illuminating, and fulfilling as Pant’s blitzkrieg of 88 not out off just 43 balls.

There were doubts over Pant unleashing his best self as a finisher after a scratchy 44 in a high-pressure chase against Sunrisers Hyderabad in his homecoming on April 20. But Pant, amongst the wicketkeeper-batter contenders for the T20 World Cup squad, was at his magnificent best in applying finishing against GT, hitting eight sixes and five fours at a strike-rate of 204.6.

Hours before the game began on Wednesday evening, the area outside the stadium was abuzz with frenetic activity. Fans were flocking to buy and don ‘Rishabh 17’ jerseys, creating a palpable sense of anticipation from the local lad. To their absolute joy, Pant produced shots – orthodox and unorthodox – showing glimpses of his vintage self, which made him an absolute darling of fans.

When Pant walked in to bat, DC were in dire straits at 44/3, with Sandeep Warrier picking up all three wickets in power-play. Pant had to initially bide his time by keeping the scoreboard ticking with Axar, who was adept at picking boundaries whenever GT erred in line and length.

“When I was there in the first timeout, we discussed about what can be the ideal score here. We then came down to 180 and focused on getting it and then take it from there. Rishabh was confident about getting 180 for the time being and said if we can achieve that, we can get more,” said DC assistant coach Pravin Amre in the post-match press conference.

He opened up by getting in line of the short ball down leg from Noor and slog-sweep over fine leg for four. When Rashid bowled him short, Pant went quickly on backfoot to pull him through square leg for four and once Noor pitched it too full, he was quick to get low and slog-sweep again, this time for six.

“‘Let’s keep going, let’s get eight or nine every over’. We knew if we targeted their main spinners, because that’s how Gujarat play - their two spinners (Rashid and Noor) handle the game very well in the middle overs. That’s what we talked about, that if we get something, we would take it on, (otherwise) we will keep rotating the strike,” Pant would say after the game ended.

Mohit Sharma, GT’s death overs specialist, came on at the start of the 12th, with slower balls and cutters in his armoury. But the length was of Pant’s liking – short and wide enough to pull and cut for boundaries. It was just the start Pant needed to showcase his power-hitting and panache.

The 16th over saw Pant welcoming Mohit with a powerful whip over deep mid-wicket for six and then whacked with all his might a full, slower ball over long off. Pant reached his fifty in 34 balls, with a slog off Mohit over long-on for six, which generated resounding applause from the DC blue wearing crowd.

After Tristan Stubbs‘ onslaught off Sai Kishore in the 19th over fetched DC 22 runs, it was the perfect platform for Pant to finish the innings on a high against a one-dimensional Mohit. A powerful swing went through Shahrukh Khan’s hands at long-on for six, followed by him losing his balance while trying to slice a wide yorker, which generated enough power in typical Pant style to fetch a four.

Rattled by this, Mohit angled a bouncer into Pant, who shuffled across and hooked to get a six. On the next ball, Pant dispatched a low full toss high over long-on for a maximum. With calls of ‘we want sixer’ coming from the crowd, Pant swiped another full toss over the boundary rope as 31 runs came off the last over.

“He started his preparation from the two weeks pre-season camp in Vizag and prepared himself very well because before that, he had been at the NCA. I remember his first day when he came at the Vizag camp, he went straight to ground from the airport. He was hungry, he made sure that he was going to utilise every day.”

“You can see all his hard work is paying off. A couple of good knocks gave him the confidence, and today’s (knock against GT) was special. He single-handedly got 31 runs against an experienced bowler like Mohit Sharma in the 20th over and that really shows that he is in good form,” added Amre.

Pant smashing 62 runs off Mohit on facing 18 balls off him, including hitting seven sixes at a whopping strike-rate of 344.44 are both the most runs & sixes for a batter against a bowler in an IPL match. Since his return to competitive cricket following the life-threatening car crash, Pant’s performance with both bat and gloves has been closely monitored. Wednesday’s knock of 88 not out was the strongest evidence of him returning to his best form.

“Definitely, loved it. I am someone who can’t praise myself. But being on the field actually really matters to me a lot, especially after the kind of injury I had. The conversation I had about myself was that when I am on the field, I should be looking better, moving better, and thinking better.”

“Because something which keeps me awake in the night is, I don’t want to be at the same place. This is a quote that I have actually read about and I feel the same about it each and every day. That’s why when I step on the field, I just feel to give my 200% each and every game,” added Pant.

Pant’s electrifying performance in the late stages of the match, filled with powerful and rollicking shots, keeps DC in the hut for a playoffs spot. In the larger context, it may well secure his spot on the flight to play for India in the Men’s T20 World Cup in West Indies and USA in June. But April 24, 2024 will forever be remembered as the night when Pant became the most radiant star on a moonlit evening.




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Title: IPL 2024: Rishabh Pant emerges as the brightest star in left-handed batters’ dominated run-fest

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