Rishabh Pant is irreplaceable in Delhi Capitals set-up and no one can bring in the requisite impact that he brings in, Delhi Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting said in New Delhi on Friday, ahead of the team's upcoming IPL season.
Pant, who survived a horrific car crash last December, is out for an indefinite period and if Ponting would have his way, he wants his favourite player to be beside him in the Delhi Capitals' dug-out during home games.
"Pant is a huge loss and it doesn't matter who we bring in as we are still going to miss Rishabh. I am not going to joke or try and gloss over that fact and he is one of the best players in the world in three formats of the game," Ponting was straight as ramrod in his reply, when asked how he plans to fill-up the maverick keeper-batter's slot.
"He (Pant) is ranked in top five among Test batsmen in world and obviously our leader and has been our No. 4 batter in middle-order and finisher for us and replacing him is going to be pretty much impossible," the former Australian skipper made no bones about the cold and hard facts during an interaction with select media.
However, a young Mumbai all-rounder Aman Hakim Khan has caught Ponting's attention and he seemed interested in his talent having watched a couple of net sessions at the Feroz Shah Kotla.
"Aman Khan is one that has really impressed us and we traded Shardul (Thakur) with KKR to get him in and he has been ultra-impressive and I don't know how much you have seen of him and his last couple of days at training has been pretty special," Ponting gave his assessment of the youngster.
However, he agreed that it will take multiple players to bring that power-hitting impact in the middle-order so that Pant's absence is covered.
"So when we are talking about losing some power in middle-order, Aman Khan, Rovman Powell and someone like Axar Patel, whose batting has improved a lot in last 12 months, we will find ways to cover for Rishabh but we will not get same quality player," the Tasmanian said.
For DC, Warner will continue to open
David Warner might have batted at number four for Australia in the recently-concluded third ODI against India but for DC, the skipper for this edition will continue to open, a slot where he has got all his success over the past decade.
"I don't want Warner to bat at No. 4. He has been one of the most successful openers in IPL history. I think we saw the games he played for DC last year.
"He was our leading run-scorer and the number of games that he won with his own batting. And he is such a competitive guy, guy who is going at top of the order and you know he can take the game on and skilful, experienced and he is our leader," Ponting said.
'You will see Marsh bowling in IPL'
Mitchell Marsh has been a revelation as an opener during the India series and he will certainly have a big role in DC top-order apart from bowling a few overs of medium pace, which he hasn't done so far post his comeback from ankle surgery.
"He will be a top-order batter/all-rounder for us. I think he is coming into the tournament in the best form I have seen him in and he has got three-four months rest in Australia and recovered from ankle surgery he had in November," Ponting said.
"He has not bowled in games yet but he has been bowling for past 5-6 weeks and his role in this team will be to bowl some overs as well and he knows that and understand that."
"Prithvi is in better shape than I've ever seen him"
The immensely talented Prithvi Shaw's work ethic has been time and again questioned but Ponting, after having had a look at him in this year's nets, strongly feels that special things might be round the corner for the Mumbai lad, who has been working really hard.
"He (Shaw) has been at the NCA for training and he has worked and trained better than I have ever seen him do. He is in better physical shape than what I have seen him ever before and I spoke to him the other day about his attitude and how he is training, this is going to be his biggest IPL season.
"He just has that different look in his eyes and you could see he is hungrier than ever, the level of talent and ability he has you will see."
For Ponting, as a coach, what he has always found disappointing is players with ability not making full use of it.
"It is documented that I had some issues early on and it is all about being true to yourself and be the best that you can be. One thing I always say to players is that I don’t like laziness and guys not utilising the talent that they have got," said Ponting.
Ponting feels something has just seemed to have "clicked this season" with Prithvi and he looks in better space than ever before.
"The game will take away from you if you don't pay full attention," Ponting couldn't be more curt.
"Impact player rule will make all-rounders less valuable"
This season's IPL will introduce "Impact Player' rule where a batter or bowler can be replaced in the middle of the game as per match situation in order to make the game more innovative and interesting.
Ponting had no hesitation in admitting that bits and pieces cricketers will cease to exist in day and age of 'Impact Substitution'.
"Actually, it almost negates the role of all-rounders in the game now as you don't need to pick in all-rounders, name a batting or bowling heavy team and just take one out and bring another one in.
"Unless they (all-rounders) are absolutely world class and they could be picked as a batter or bowler not as a bits and pieces guy, I don’t think you will see many teams actually use the guy that bats at No. 7 and bowls an over or two, You don't need those guys anymore."
So a veteran like Ishant Sharma, at the last leg of his career, could be a good 'Impact Player' in case the team is bowling second?
"Potentially, yeah. What we will find through, each franchise, how they want to use him (Impact Player) and because of players, we only found out about Impact players post auction. Actually, we have to work with what we have got and if we had known before auction, we would have looked at it in a slightly different way," he added.