Ricky Ponting has opened up on his affection for Rishabh Pant following the India international’s accident and suggested that the hugely-popular player could take up a role alongside him in the dugout at Delhi Capitals during the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Australian legend Ponting, speaking on The ICC Review, revealed that he has been in contact with Pant during the 25-year-old’s recovery.
“I absolutely love the bloke, I told him that on the phone the last couple of days,” Ponting told The ICC Review.
“It was a horrifying time, a really scary time for everybody, let alone him. Anyone that knows him loves him – he’s a really infectious young guy that has the world at his feet still.
“So we will keep our fingers crossed and hope that he can get back to playing sooner rather than later.”
Pant was involved in a car crash on December 30 and suffered a number of serious injuries, however he is making good progress with his recovery and is expected to eventually make a return to the field.
The timeframe on Pant’s return to cricket remains unclear, with his participation in this season’s IPL not yet completely ruled out.
However, it is considered extremely unlikely that Delhi Capitals captain Pant will play for Ponting’s side in 2023, with the head coach already looking at alternative ways to make up for the loss of his star player.
“You can’t replace those guys, simple as that,” Ponting said.
“They don’t grow on trees, players like that. We’ve got to look at – and we already are – a replacement to come into the squad, a wicketkeeper-batsman.”
However, Ponting’s love and respect for his captain means that a big role at the Capitals will still be on offer if Pant is well enough, with the Australian saying “I want him sitting beside me in the dugout every day of the week”.
“If he’s actually not physically fit enough to play, we’d still love to have him around,” Ponting explained. “He’s the sort of cultural leader around the group, being the captain, and that attitude and infectious smile and laugh he has is what we all love so much about him.
“If he’s actually able to travel and be around the team, then I want him sitting beside me in the dugout every day of the week.
“I’ll certainly be making sure, come the middle of March when we get together in Delhi and start our camps and stuff, if he’s able to be there, then I want him around the whole time.”
India are set to play Ponting’s home country in the much-anticipated upcoming four-Test Border-Gavaskar Trophy series, with the two teams also currently on track to meet again in the ICC World Test Championship final in June.
And Ponting believes that the brilliance of Pant’s Test batting will be a huge loss, not just for India but also for fans of the game who would have been so anticipating a repeat of his heroics in Australia two years ago.
“I think he’s ranked in the top six-seven Test batsmen in the world, isn’t he?” Ponting asked (Pant is currently seventh in the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s Test Batting Rankings, India’s highest-ranked batter).
“When he first started, we probably all thought he was going to be a better T20 and one-day batsman than a Test batsman, but it’s actually worked the other way. His Test cricket has been remarkable.
“Even the series coming up against Australia, the four-Test series there, we know how he played against Australia in Australia last time. He’d have been looking forward to that series, and the rest of the world would have been looking forward to watching him play.”