Rishabh Pant cut a forlorn figure after Saturday night’s match which saw Delhi Capitals lose out on a place in the playoffs. The defeat allowed Royal Challengers Bangalore to sneak into the last four, and it all boiled down to Pant’s errors in this crucial tie.
The dashing wicketkeeper-batsman, captaining DC for the second season, bungled on a couple of occasions in quick succession. This allowed Mumbai Indians to break DC’s grip on the proceedings and pull off an unexpected win.
Having stuttered a bit in the second half of the league stage, DC had to beat the five-time former champions to make the cut. While RCB were already on 16 points, their Net Run Rate was poor, making it a simple equation for DC: win or bust.
Given Mumbai’s travails this season — they were bottom-placed — DC were favourites even if their form through the league stage had been a trifle up and down.
Mumbai would be without Suryakumar Yadav (injured) and Kieron Pollard (dropped on form), while master batsman Rohit Sharma was in the throes of a prolonged lean trot. This didn’t mean Mumbai would be pushovers, but surely DC had the wherewithal to get past them.
Moreover, they had good momentum, having won their previous two games.
A deadly opening spell by Jasprit Bumrah brought with it grim portents. Three wickets, including those of David Warner and Mitchell Marsh, fell in a trice and Delhi were on the precipice of a collapse. Survival depended on how Pant the batsman coped with the crisis.
In hindsight, he did rather well, making 39 on a spicy pitch, which held the innings together and allowed DC to recover to 159. However, for a longish spell, Pant struggled to get the ball off the square, and Mumbai piled on even more pressure. Pant’s approach was unlike the swashbuckling strokeplayer who bowlers dread and it is moot what the outcome of the match might have been had DC got 10-15 runs more.
Nevertheless, it was when Delhi were defending that Pant made bloomers that had the bigger impact on the outcome. He dropped a sitter from Dewald Brevis just when his team was getting a stranglehold on the batsmen. Brevis cut loose immediately after to revive Mumbai’s run-making momentum, and with it, hopes of a win.
Pant compounded the folly with an even graver one when he shunned a DRS review against Tim David (caught behind) though DC had both remaining. Replays showed a clear nick. The moment had come and gone. David flexed his muscles thereafter and clouted a flurry of sixes that squeezed Delhi out of the game, leaving Pant, coach Ricky Ponting, his dug out and DC supporters shattered.
But there’s only so much one can fault in Pant. Credit must be given to Mumbai for retaining their motivation to win and taking the breaks that came their way.
A proven match-winner Pant is also regarded as amongst the sharpest minds in Indian cricket; a worthy successor to MS Dhoni, as former India coach Ravi Shastri has often said.
However pressure can get to the best and, all told, it just wasn’t Pant’s — (and by extension Delhi’s) — day.
The result of that match certainly made it RCB’s day! The league phase had seen the team hit peaks and troughs, keeping their supporters and experts in suspense of where they would finish. They have never won the title, but are in the playoffs for the fourth season in succession.
This should sound caution to critics and opponents who had been quick to write them off because of their inconsistency in the past eight weeks.
In the pecking order of teams that have made it to the playoffs, RCB surely come behind Gujarat Giants, Rajasthan Royals and Lucknow SuperGiants. But write off the Bangalore team at your own peril!
Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator
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