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    Delhi Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting said that Rishabh Pant is ‘very confident’ of featuring for the franchise in the 2024 edition of Indian Premier League, as the wicketkeeper batter makes his comeback from a horrific accident in December 2022. But the former Australian captain added that he wasn’t entirely sure if Pant will be able to keep wickets, and that if they are able to manage him through the tournament, whatever they get from him will be a bonus.

    “Rishabh is very confident that he’s going to be right to play,” Ponting said on Wednesday to reporters after being unveiled as MLC franchise Washington Freedom’s coach. “In what capacity we’re not quite sure yet. You would have seen all the social-media stuff, he’s up and about and running well. But in saying that, we’re only six weeks away from the first game as well. So we’re not sure if we’ll get wicketkeeping out of him this year. But I’ll guarantee if I asked him now he’ll say, ‘I’m playing every game, I’m keeping every game and I’m batting at No.4.’ That’s just what he’s like, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed.”

    Pant was missed in 2023, Ponting said, as DC struggled throughout the season and finished one place off the bottom of the table. The left-hander has since spoken about how fortunate he is to have a second chance at life.

    “He’s such a dynamic player. He’s obviously our captain. We missed him incredibly last year,” Ponting said. “If you understand the journey he’s been on the last 12-13 months, it was a horrific incident. One that I know he feels very lucky to have even survived, let alone have the chance to play cricket again.

    “We’ll just keep our fingers crossed and hope that he can be out there and play. Even if it’s not all the games, if we can manage him through 10 of the 14 games or whatever that might be, then whatever games you can get out of him will be a bonus.”

    Festive offer

    In an interview that aired recently with broadcaster Star Sports, titled ‘Believe: To Death and Back’, Pant had said there was a possibility of amputation but he is lucky to be still alive.

    “If there was any nerve damage, there was a possibility of amputation. That is when I felt scared,” Pant had said.

    The Delhi dasher also spoke about finding the joy in little things. “I didn’t think I would ever enjoy brushing my teeth. The first time I took a bath, I didn’t feel like coming out. These small things gave me joy because I’m fortunate to have a second life. Not everyone is fortunate enough to get it.

    “Doctors also said that there was no fracture after the accident. Yes, my knee injury was major, but this could have been so big, that none of us can know. They always tell me I am lucky. Of course, it was such a horrific accident, the individual feels bad that this happened to me. How can I be lucky? But the other side is that despite the crash, I was alive.”

    Pant has since been involved in DC’s planning for the 2024 edition and was seen at the franchise’s auction table in Dubai in December. Delhi will be hoping his return will bolster a batting unit that struggled last year.

    “Our batting was disappointing last year,” Ponting said. “Our Indiam batting, to be honest. A lot of the guys that we felt would be able to handle difficult conditions in Delhi, a spinning wicket a lot of the time, we weren’t good enough in those conditions. We’ve got some challenges with our home venue to be honest.”

    Ponting also pointed out to the fact that not being sure exactly what sort of wicket they were going to get in Delhi for the home matches didn’t help the side.

    “So you’d go to the auction expecting you’re going to get one [type] of surface and you rock up for five games, seven games there and you get five different pitches so that does make it hard,” the Aussie legend explained.

    “But we definitely lacked on batting quality last year, which is what we’ve tried to improve on this year. We’ve gone to the well with a couple of really highly talented young Indian players that we think that are ready to play straight away. That’s the thing about the IPL, it’s one year to the big auction so it’s not like you can really invest too much in these young blokes and hope to improve them overnight. You’ve got to get the best talent out there that you think’s ready to play. And we’ve got a few of those this year.”

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