With a cloud of uncertainty looming over Delhi Capitals after wicketkeeper-batter Tim Seifert tested positive for Covid-19 hours before their match against Punjab Kings on Wednesday, the Rishabh Pant-led side had to shrug off their off-field issues to focus on getting their inconsistent campaign back on track.
The spark of motivation for Delhi came from head coach Ricky Ponting’s words, which fired the side to thrash Punjab Kings by nine wickets in an all-round show and climb to number six on the points table.
In the post-match virtual press conference, left-arm spin all-rounder Axar Patel revealed how Ponting’s speech brought the best out of Delhi.
“We were quarantined and started practice two-three days after that, he (Ponting) told us we have two options. We have to play the match. You can think that there are positive cases, and the preparations aren’t done. Or you can think all outside things are not in our hands and you should show commitment with regard to efforts and preparation. We were focusing on our game (against Punjab). We did our planning (accordingly). So that was it, the speech from him (Ponting) and our mindset.”
In a pre-match chat with broadcasters Star Sports, Ponting had revealed his message to the side ahead of a crucial match against Punjab on the back of Covid-19 scares in the camp. “The preparations haven’t been perfect and I addressed the group about the two options we have — we can drag our backsides around or we can take the positives around and realise that we are here for a big tournament with a great franchise. We have to turn up with a positive attitude and we know we have to play well in this game.”
For Delhi, everything went right from the toss to bowling out Punjab for a paltry 115 and then chasing down the target with 57 balls to spare, thanks to a whirlwind 83-run opening stand between David Warner and Prithvi Shaw. Axar himself shined with 2/10 in four overs while his spin partner, Kuldeep Yadav continued his resurgence story with 2/24 and Lalit Yadav chipped in with 2/11.
Axar felt that giving confidence and assurance of game time to a player like Kuldeep, who picked just five wickets between 2019 and 2021 IPL seasons with Kolkata Knight Riders, has been crucial in bringing the best out of him.
“The atmosphere is very important. I had said earlier when he (Kuldeep) came, he needed confidence. After you don’t play well for a season or two (in the IPL), you are less confident. So, Rishabh (Pant), I and the coaching staff — Ricky (Ponting) gave him the confidence, which was important.”We gave him confidence in the practice match and he was told mainly that he would play all the matches and doesn’t need to take tension about his performance. It gives the player surety that when he knows he is playing all the matches instead of worrying about performances game-by-game, he needs to focus on his bowling.
“And that is happening. He is now focusing on his bowling and the way his form is and he is taking wickets; it becomes easy for me to partner with him.”
With Delhi showing resilience in the face of adversity after motivational words from Ponting, expect Pant and Co to continue their belligerent ways against Rajasthan Royals on April 22 at the Wankhede Stadium.