Rishabh Pant begins match-simulation exercises in Bengaluru


Rishabh Pant has begun going through a series of match-simulation exercises as he continues his recovery from a life-threatening car accident in December 2022 and targets a return to competitive cricket during IPL 2024.

On Tuesday, Pant and Hardik Pandya, who is recovering from an ankle injury, played a 20-over practice game at the KSCA facility in Alur, Karnataka, under the supervision of National Cricket Academy physios and trainers. They are expected to have another round of conditioning and match-simulation drills on Thursday and it’s likely this exercise will continue until early March.

ESPNcricinfo understands Pant experienced no discomfort while batting for the entire 20 overs and the team monitoring him is believed to be satisfied with his endurance levels. Pant, however, didn’t keep wicket and has reportedly been advised to resume that aspect of his training in March. If he’s ready in time for the IPL, he is like to play as a specialist batter for Delhi Capitals.

On Tuesday, Pant had a posted a video on Instagram in which he’s seen doing some wicketkeeping and mobility drills, which have become part of his lower-body conditioning over the past six weeks. The NCA staff is mindful of not overloading Pant and want to ease him back into the rigours of training in a high-intensity environment.

Ricky Ponting, Delhi’s head coach, had spoken earlier this month about “managing Pant” through IPL 2024, if he wasn’t ready to play every single game.

“We’ll just keep our fingers crossed and hope that he can be out there and play,” Ponting had said. “Even if it’s not all the games, if we can manage him through 10 of the 14 games or whatever that might be, then whatever games you can get out of him will be a bonus.

“Rishabh is very confident that he’s going to be right to play. In what capacity we’re not quite sure yet. But I’ll guarantee if I asked him now he’ll say, ‘I’m playing every game, I’m keeping every game and I’m batting at No.4.’ That’s just what he’s like, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed.”

Pant hasn’t played competitive cricket since the accident in December 2022, when he was driving from Delhi to his hometown of Roorkee to meet his family. After being treated initially in Dehradun, Pant was airlifted to Mumbai, where he had knee surgery under the care of BCCI’s specialist consultant.

Since last April, Pant has mostly been at the NCA in Bengaluru for his rehab under the guidance of physio S Rajnikanth, who has worked with several India age-group teams and also been part of the DC support staff.

Rajnikanth had previously helped Hardik, Jasprit Bumrah and M Vijay recover from serious injuries. Thulasi Ram Yuvaraj, another NCA physio, has also been working with Pant on mobility and speed drills.

In an interview aired earlier this month on Star Sports, Pant had spoken about how he insulated himself from the outside world to focus on his recovery. “I am focusing on recovery cut off from the world,” he said. “It helps me in recovering fast, especially when the injury is so serious. For recovery, you have to do the same thing every day. It’s boring, it’s irritating, it’s frustrating, but you have to do it.”

Hardik is believed to be recovering well from the ankle injury he picked up midway through the 2023 ODI World Cup. He had begun training in Baroda last month and checked into the NCA for regular fitness monitoring. He is reportedly on track to lead Mumbai Indians at IPL 2024.

Last week, BCCI secretary Jay Shah had said Hardik would be Rohit Sharma’s vice-captain for the 2024 T20 World Cup beginning on June 1 in the USA and the West Indies.

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