Rishabh Pant’s IPL knock floors Tendulkar, Big B; is MS Dhoni under pressure?

05-05-2017
HT

Teenager Rishabh Pant played a masterful innings as his 97 helped Delhi Daredevils to a seven-wicket thumping and ended Gujarat Lions’ already slim IPL play-off hopes. Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly, three batsmen who know a bit or two about limited overs batting, have been floored by Rishabh Pant’s innings.

At a time when several juniors are pressing their claims to win a berth in the Indian cricket team for the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy in UK from June 1, Rishabh Pant’s innings has come at the right juncture.

Pant keeps wickets too for Delhi Ranji team and although it’s impossible to think of an Indian team minus MS Dhoni, the national selectors could think otherwise if they choose to back IPL performances.

Virat Kohli, whose intensity on the field pumps up young cricketers, won’t be averse to giving Rishabh Pant a chance but the India captain has tremendous respect for the experienced Dhoni, whose IPL form for Rising Pune Supergiant has run a bit hot and cold.

Sachin Tendulkar, who is the mentor of former IPL champions and IPL 2017 pacesetters Mumbai Indians, praised Pant’s innings at the Kotla on Thursday night.

“One of the best innings I have seen in IPL and that includes all 10 season’s”, tweeted Tendulkar with a TV grab of Pant’s 97.

Gujarat Lions made the trip to Delhi knowing only four straight wins could realistically extend their season. A fine 133-run stand from Suresh Raina (77) and Dinesh Karthik (65) propelled them to a hefty 208-7.

But Rishabh Pant, ably assisted by Sanju Samson (61), smashed nine sixes and six fours off 43 balls in a textbook display of Twenty20 cricket as Delhi Daredevils recorded the second-highest run-chase in IPL history to move within five points of the top four with a match in hand. Former skipper Sourav Ganguly was floored too.

Pant came to the wicket with reckless abandon and cleared the ropes four times inside five overs, Basil Thampi (1-40) and Pradeep Sangwan (1-43) the first to picked off by the 19-year-old.

At the other end, Sanju Samson, another young man who must have caught the imagination of the national selectors, was playing his part in a majestic partnership, twice sending Ankit Soni for six.

Pant was the main attraction, though, and he picked up 23 runs off a luckless James Faulkner (0-35) in the 11th over with his sublime ball striking and excellent foot work helping him to three more sixes.

Virender Sehwag, who is mentoring Kings XI Punjab this season, was mighty impressed too.

Rishabh Pant’s innings has partially lifted the gloom in the Delhi Daredevils camp. Cricket’s history is replete with miracle turnarounds and if DD makes the last four of IPL 2017, then Pant and Samson will get most of the credit.

And don’t forget his dad’s blessings. Rishabh Pant lost his 53-year-old father on April 5, the day IPL 2017 started in Hyderabad.

Pant returned to IPL action within two days of completing the last rites. The powerful left-hander, who is charming his way with his hitting skills, is now grabbing the headlines for all the happy reasons.

Dad Rajendra must surely be loving it, up there.

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