Rishabh Pant, the India wicket-keeper batsman, was at his innovative best in smashing a 27-ball 78 to kick off his Indian Premier League 2019 campaign in style.
The 21-year-old has had a terrific 12 months, where he made his Test and one-day international debuts, bringing up red-ball centuries in Australia and England. However, with MS Dhoni going strong and few places open in a strong Indian XI, Pant is not yet a shoo-in for the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019.
Virat Kohli, the India captain, has suggested that the IPL won't play a big part in deciding World Cup selections, but with his effort for Delhi Capitals against the Rohit Sharma-led Mumbai Indians on Sunday, 24 March, Pant has offered a timely reminder of his abilities.
.@RishabPant777's love affair with #VIVOIPL continued yesterday as 70 off his 78* (27) against Mumbai Indians came in 4s and 6s 😯— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) March 25, 2019
Relive the rampage - https://t.co/QtFGFXfVNk #MIvDC pic.twitter.com/jsMKM9i9SQ
He employed multiple unorthodox strokes to dismantle the Mumbai bowling attack, including taking on the brilliant Jasprit Bumrah. Half of his runs came between deep square leg and fine leg, as he utilised the hook and flick to perfection against pace. Cross-batted shots, one-handed efforts – his swashbuckling innings had it all.
"Pant is really a destructive batsmen and we saw that today. He has matured well over the years," said Shreyas Iyer, his captain. "He played four dot balls but then struck at over 250!"
"I was looking to up the scoring rate and the chance I took came off," Pant said, collecting his match award. "In T20 you have to be a bit unorthodox and try to do things differently. I am happy to bat in any position as long as the team wins."
It's important that we groom Pant well, and hopefully, he's the next best thing for us
Yuvraj Singh, who made a 35-ball 53 for Mumbai in the 37-run defeat, lavished praise on Pant in the post-match press conference. The youngster, he said, could be the next big thing in Indian cricket.
"Rishabh was outstanding," the veteran said. "He had an outstanding season last year as well. He has been playing really good in Test matches, scored two hundreds overseas at such an early age. That shows his character. It's important that we groom him well, and hopefully, he's the next best thing for us."
Personalise your homepage with an ICC account
News, fixtures and updates tailored to your favourite team. Never miss a moment!