There’s no limit to what Rishabh Pant can do, says Sanju Samson's early mentor

Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant has all but sealed his place in the Indian XI for the opening match. File photo: X@BCCI via PTI

New Delhi: Rishabh Pant displayed his trademark unorthodox shots on an up and down drop-in pitch at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium during India’s T20 World Cup warm-up match against Bangladesh on Saturday. The left-hander scored 53 off 32 balls before retiring out, to be the biggest takeaway for India from their 60-run win.

Pant struggled initially after coming in to bat at No. 3 after Sanju Samson fell for one off six balls. But he rapidly advanced by hitting three sixes off Shakib Al Hasan, with coming off an audacious reverse sweep.

In total, Pant hit four fours and as many sixes. He was right on the money against the spinners and pacers. It’s something which will make Indian think-tank serious about slotting Pant into the playing eleven for the campaign opener against Ireland on Wednesday.

"As a batter, he’s got that ability to explore angles which a normal batter doesn’t. He gets into different positions and is so strong that he can connect with the ball to hit sixes – one-handed, off-balance, or while falling – you name it, he’s done it. He can bat at No. 3 or 4 and can even be a finisher – a left-handed batter with so much power.  When he is set and going, there’s no limit to what he can do; he’s very, very destructive. During the IPL, people were targeting his stumps as everyone knew he would hit shots through point or cover if someone bowls outside the off-stump to him. So, he was using that angle and it was not like, he’s leg-side dominant," said Biju George, Delhi Capitals’ (DC) fielding coach. Biju has mentored Sanju, the other stumper-batter in the Indian World Cup squad,  for close to 15 years. He also been a former fielding coach of the Indian women's team. 

Sanju Samson
Sanju Samson fell for one against Bangladesh in the warm-up match. File photo: PTI/R Senthil Kumar

Biju has kept a close eye on Pant’s recovery journey and finally had the chance to meet him during DC's pre-season camp in Visakhapatnam. Biju reckons Pant relishes every moment of his time on the field and is in his top self, especially fitness-wise.

"If you talk about just before that incident and now, he’s become much better. He’s leaner and fitter now. I first met him when he was around 19 or 20 at the NCA (National Cricket Academy) wicketkeepers’ camp. The shape and fitness levels he had at that time, now it can be said he’s at the same level, as also his skillset is supreme.

"His mind is very, very strong and very focused on what he has to do on the field. He has now realised how fragile life can be and is now enjoying every moment of it. At the ground, he is ready to give every bit of himself towards every ball. Plus, he’s so intense now while fielding, keeping and batting every ball."

Apart from amassing 446 runs in 13 games for DC in IPL 2024, Pant got back to wicketkeeping duties from the word go, an aspect where he showed huge fluency in his 11 catches and five stumpings. Biju acknowledged he was surprised when Pant took over as the wicketkeeper for DC’s campaign opener at Mullanpur in March.

"I was really surprised as I never thought he would get up and keep wickets during initial phases of the IPL. Probably, the plan on discussing with the trainer was to field at mid-off or mid-on, where there is not much lateral movement.

"Once he would get used to the load, he would start keeping, probably in second phase of the IPL. But I was surprised with the way he came good in keeping right from the first day, and his stumping of Jitesh Sharma at Mullanpur was amazing.

Pant became increasingly fluent in his skills as the season advanced, ultimately securing a spot in India’s T20 World Cup squad. There were reports of him potentially being India’s vice-captain for the showpiece event, but it didn’t happen. Biju stated how he saw Pant developing as a leader for DC in IPL 2024.

"He’s literally one of the best cricketing minds you can come across. He’s always thinking about angles; where to put a fielder and who would be the best person at a particular fielding position. He’s also inspiring the bowlers, like he once said to someone like Ishant Sharma in a game, 'no paaji, you are good enough'.

"He has got the best out of bowlers and is a captaincy material for sure. He’s always around the players, telling them that they have the abilities to execute as per the demand of the situation, like ‘come on, you can do it’. I call him one-man cheerleading arm," said Biju.

Rohit, Pant & Chahal
From left: Indain captain Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant and Yuzvendra Chahal during the warm-up match against Bangladesh. Photo: X@BCCI via PTI

He believes Pant will perform well in the T20 World Cup due to his quick adaptability. "In IPL 2024, I felt there were couple of pitches which was very much like American conditions. So, I feel he will adapt well to the conditions in USA for the T20 World Cup, as he’s shown his adaptive qualities previously, while succeeding at the Test level.

"He’s currently at his best now in terms of keeping. During IPL 2024, he would join for fielding drills, throw himself around and he would be enjoying himself there. In the World Cup, I feel he will win at least a few matches for India and really hope he lifts the trophy," he added.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.