Pant has not played since his car accident in December 2022 when he thought his “time in this world was over.”
“Rishabh is very confident that he’s going to be right to play,” Ponting said. “In what capacity we’re not quite sure yet.
“You would have seen all the social-media stuff, he’s up and about and running well. But in saying that we’re only six weeks away from the first game as well. So we’re not sure if we’ll get wicketkeeping out of him this year.
“But I’ll guarantee if I asked him now he’ll say, ‘I’m playing every game, I’m keeping every game and I’m batting at No.4.’ That’s just what he’s like, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed.
“He’s such a dynamic player. He’s obviously our captain. We missed him incredibly last year.
“If you understand the journey he’s been on the last 12-13 months, it was a horrific incident. One that I know he feels very lucky to have even survived, let alone have the chance to play cricket again.
“We’ll just keep our fingers crossed and hope that he can be out there and play. Even if it’s not all the games, if we can manage him through 10 of the 14 games or whatever that might be then whatever games you can get out of him will be a bonus.”
“Marsh and Warner will bat up the top somewhere and Harry Brook has been finishing off with England, so he’ll probably play a finishing role for us there.
“[If] we can get [Anrich] Nortje and Jhye Richardson fit, and with the two spin options we’ve got with Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav we’ve got a really good squad that to be fair has probably underperformed the last couple of years, so we’ve got some work to do.”
Richardson’s availability will be a major question for Capitals. The Western Australia quick has not played since injuring his side during the BBL and there is no timeline on his return for WA at the back end of the Australian domestic season. He also suffered another shoulder dislocation before the BBL and was unable to throw in the games he played.
But Ponting was more concerned about Capitals’ batting, particularly on their home ground at Arun Jaitley Stadium, where they won just two of their seven home games in IPL 2023.
“Our batting was disappointing last year,” Ponting said. “A lot of the guys that we felt would be able to handle difficult conditions in Delhi, a spinning wicket a lot of the time, we weren’t good enough in those conditions.
“We’ve got some challenges with our home venue to be honest. We rock up every game, we’re not really sure exactly what sort of wicket we’re going to get.
“So you’d go to the auction expecting you’re going to get one [type] of surface and you rock up for five games, seven games there and you get five different pitches so that does make it hard. But we definitely lacked on batting quality last year, which is what we’ve tried to really improve on this year.
“We’ve gone to the well with a couple of really highly talented young Indian players that we think that are ready to play straight away. That’s the thing about the IPL, it’s one year to the big auction so it’s not like you can really invest too much in these young blokes and hope to improve them overnight. You’ve got to get the best talent out there that you think’s ready to play. And we’ve got a few of those this year.”
Alex Malcolm is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo