Well before taking over as the head coach of Delhi Capitals (then Daredevils) in 2018, Ponting had coached Mumbai Indians and had chaperoned Rohit’s captaincy from 2013 to 2016, to help the franchise to two IPL titles, in 2013 and 2015. Rohit has since become one of the top all-format players for India and has taken over the India captaincy in at least two formats.
Pant is now in a very similar situation. A vital all-format player for India, in his early 20s, a new IPL captain, and a possible future India captain, also being groomed by Ponting.
“I hadn’t thought about that actually but they are actually quite similar,” Ponting said of the Rohit-Pant comparison a day before the two teams he has coached face each other in IPL 2022. “When Rohit took over at Mumbai, he was quite a young man as well, and had started out in his international cricket. He was probably very similar [in age], I’m not sure how old he was but he would have been 23-24, similar to what Rishabh is here at the Delhi Capitals.
“To tell you honestly, they’re quite similar people. I know they are great mates and they talk all the time and they’re probably exchanging things about leadership and captaincy along the way as well. Rohit probably doesn’t want to give too many secrets away because we’re going to play against him in a couple of days’ time (laughs). I think there’s every opportunity for Rishabh’s journey to be similar to Rohit Sharma’s. He’s a young captain of a successful franchise and growing on a daily basis and hopefully Rishabh can have the same sort of success Rohit’s had at the Mumbai Indians. And then with some experience in a role like this in a high-pressure tournament like the IPL, I’ve got no doubt in the years to come there’s every chance that Rishabh could be an international captain. No doubt about it.”
The manner in which both Rohit and Pant were handed their IPL captaincies was also similar; Rohit took over from Ponting mid-season in 2013 and Pant was handed over the baton last IPL after Shreyas Iyer picked up a shoulder injury.
Ponting is now in his fifth season with Capitals, and he has overseen Pant’s evolution not just as captain but as a player and individual too, after Pant was bought by Daredevils in the 2016 auction. Since then, Pant has played 84 games for them to amass 2498 runs while averaging 35.18 and striking at 147.46, and has quickly gone up the ladder to take over as a long-term captain.
Ponting said the “learning experiences” Pant has had in the last 12-18 months with India and in the IPL will make him a “better leader and person”.
“His evolution – not just the last one year, this is my fifth season now at the Delhi Capitals – and his evolution as a player and as a person has been quite dramatic,” Ponting said. “Last couple of years with some more responsibility in and around the Indian team, and captaining the Delhi Capitals last season, there’s a lot of learning experiences for him through the last 12-18 months for him which will keep helping him become a better leader and person on a daily basis. I know Rishabh really well, and that’s what he talks about all the time, trying to find ways to improve.
“There’s no doubt that his maturity in the last 12-18 months with his play and also with his leadership and captaincy has been outstanding. It’s a big part of my job as well to try and help and guide him and push Rishabh in the right direction where I can. But saying that, he’s got a very good grasp on what leadership is all about because he’s been in successful teams and he’s been under strong leaders in the past. It’s up to me, if there’s anything I can help him with, I’ll do it along the way.”
Ponting will now hope he can help Pant lift the IPL trophy two months from now and cheekily ask the BCCI for a ‘captaincy-grooming bonus’ they never knew they owed him.