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IPL 2019: Ganguly & Ponting Back Pant to be India's No. 4 at World Cup

Devadyuti Das | March 20, 2019, 8:51 AM IST

The 12th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is just a few days away but the eyes of everyone is focussed on 2019 World Cup which will begin on May 30, 18 days after the IPL-12 final.

The final 15 for the World Cup might almost be in place but there is still one spot up for grabs in the playing XI — the No. 4 position. Sourav Ganguly, who joined IPL franchise Delhi Capitals as an advisor this season, believes the No. 4 spot could be decided on the basis on IPL form.

“There are lots of choices for the No. 4 position. I have been calling for (Cheteshwar) Pujara because he is in very good form and batting well. I have seen Rahul Dravid playing successfully in the ODI format at No. 4 and 5. Dravid was given a role. If you have an option of a batsman in form and scoring runs, then Pujara can be a good option. Along with him, Rishabh Pant is also a good option for the position as well as Ambati Rayudu,” Ganguly told the media in New Delhi on Tuesday (March 19).

“When I look at it I think Virat Kohli already knows who is his No. 4 batsman. However, the form of batsmen in the IPL could clinch the No. 4 spot for them,” the former India captain added.

Ganguly also came out in defence of Delhi wicketkeeper Pant’s patchy form in ODIs and T20Is for India. “Look at the way he played in IPL last year, he got a full tournament to play and ended up as the second-highest run-getter. The problem with him in the shorter format is that he doesn’t play regular cricket with MS Dhoni still playing ahead of him. Rishabh is coming in and going out and that’s never good for any batsman,” the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president said about Pant.

“How many Indian wicketkeeper-batsman have scored hundreds in England and Australia? He has looked at ease on fast and pacy wickets as well. For me, he is your future for the next 10 years. Not because he plays for Delhi but because he is a hard worker, I have been watching him in the nets for the last four years, he is always the first one to come out and bat for longer periods,” he added.

Meanwhile, Delhi Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting felt that Indian selectors should pick Pant in the World Cup purely as a batsman and play him at No. 4.

“He is the sort of guy who has the X-factor about him that can win a World Cup for you. We need those guys to focus on winning games for Delhi and not what’s going to happen for the World Cup. If they score runs and win games for Delhi Capitals they will be rewarded with selection I am sure,” Ponting said about Pant.

Ganguly was also opposed to all the talk about the workload management of Indian team members ahead of the World Cup.

“Yes it’s a lot of cricket but we don’t play forever. How many cricketers get to play cricket for 15-16 years. So I don’t think any of them should feel worried about getting fatigued. I have always said there is a limited time to play in this sport, if you are getting this opportunity to play at IPL level it will not come back. So just find a way to take rest and find a way to stay fresh. Not playing is not a solution. Before you realise, 10-12 years would have flown by,” the 46-year-old Ganguly said.

Capitals coach Ponting remains optimistic on the issue. “We all know how big a deal World Cup is. Aside of a couple of important Test series, it is probably the pinnacle of world cricket. So I can understand how the boards want the players to remain fit for the entire duration of the tournament. We’ll see how it is managed. We know Australian players are arriving late and leaving early. Sounds like some of the South African players might have to leave early as well. Some of the Indian fast bowlers might be under restrictions in the back-end of the IPL, at the end of the day it’s out of our hands. We can’t control that, we’ll continue to put our best XI on the field and try to play the best we can,” the two-time World Cup-winning Australian skipper said.

Ganguly also denied that the Indian relied too heavily on their skipper Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah. “These guys are really good. We didn’t think we will lose the final in the Champions Trophy. This team has a lot of talent. They will be favourites to win the trophy even though I don't believe in the tag. You have (Shikhar) Dhawan, Rohit (Sharma), Dhoni, Kohli, (Jasprit) Bumrah, and others. I have no advise for this team, I just hope they play freely.

“Kohli is huge and all generations have had such class players. Every generation has produced champions and Kohli is a champion but I honestly believe that this Indian team has the arsenal apart from Kohli to do well. This is a very good side which doesn't have too many weaknesses,” he said.

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