Days after leading the Delhi team to the Ranji Trophy final, Rishabh Pant was removed as the captain for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy campaign. The decision was taken after the coach and selectors felt that captaincy was affecting Pant’s batting. Seamer Pradeep Sangwan, who missed the Ranji Trophy due to injury, will lead the side for the tournament starting January 8. After Ishant Sharma and Pant, Sangwan is Delhi’s third skipper this season.
Ever since his appointment as captain for the Vijay Hazare Trophy last year, Pant’s batting has been on a downward curve. The aggressive left-hander could only manage 315 runs in the Ranji Trophy.
“We observed during Ranji Trophy that Pant was feeling the pressure of captaincy. He wasn’t able to take it. We didn’t want it to happen this time around because T20 is the format he enjoys and we want him to score runs and do well for the team. We discussed the same with coach (KP) Bhaskar and he was on the same page and felt captaincy was affecting his batting and he wasn’t able to play his natural game,” says chairman of selectors Atul Wassan.
Wassan said Sangwan was the senior-most player in the side and they felt it was right to hand the captaincy over to him and let Pant play freely in the format he enjoys. “It was simple. Sangwan is an experienced campaigner and senior most player in the side. We didn’t have to think much before appointing him captain.” says Wassan.
The selectors have made plenty of changes from the Ranji Trophy squad and regulars like Unmukt Chand, Manan Sharma, Milind Kumar have been dropped on form and fitness issues.
“Manan wasn’t fit. Anyway he wasn’t our first choice in the format. Pawan Negi was always our frontline spinner and we have again backed him to do well in the shorter formats,” says Wassan.
Players like Lalit Yadav and Tejas Baroka have been rewarded for their performances in the U-23 age-group. A notable exclusion is Hiten Dalal, who was Delhi’s leading run-getter in the U-23 age group.
“Unlike previous selectors, we didn’t want to throw the players we picked last year in the bin. As far as Hiten is concerned, he is in the stand-byes and in our scheme of things for the 50-over format,” says Wassan.
Squad: Pradeep Sangwan (c), Gautam Gambhir, Nitish Rana, Sarthak Ranjan, Dhruv Shorey, Lalit Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Himmat Singh, Navdeep Saini, Pawan Negi, Kulwant Khejroliya, Kshitij Sharma, Tejas Baroka, Subodh Bhati, Gaurav Kumar.