Since bursting onto the scene in 2016, Rishabh Pant has been consistently turning on the heat in the Indian Premier League.
The Haridwar-born 21-year-old was an absolute revelation during the 2018 season with a phenomenal 684 runs behind only Kane Williamson (735) who played three games more.
The Feroz Shah Kotla crowd were treated to some stupendous innings, especially his unbeaten knock of 128 against a formidable Sunrisers Hyderabad attack.
Though he hasn’t really made a notable impact in India colours, when the wicket-keeper turns up in the Delhi uniform, he seems a different entity altogether.
Sunday was no different as the youngster blasted the Mumbai Indians bowling attack to all parts of the Wankhede as the newly-christened Delhi Capitals swept aside Mumbai by 37 runs.
A lot was expected of the opening pair of Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan, the latter back at his home city franchise after a hugely successful stint with Sunrisers.
Shaw’s stay was brief one as he departed for seven (6 balls, 1 four) immediately after dispatching Mitchell McClenaghan to the fence in the second over.
At the other end, Dhawan was taking his time and getting accustomed to the wicket that seemed true in nature and good surface for batting.
Iyer, who has been prolific in recent domestic competitions, produced some classy strokes against Mumbai’s 17-year-old debutant Rashik Salam. But the Delhi skipper’s stay was brief as he too fell victim to McClenaghan, leaving Delhi at 29/2 in the fourth over. Iyer pushed uppishly but couldn’t get it past Keiron Pollard at extra cover – the burly West Indian plucking it one-handedly.
Big hitting South African Colin Ingram walked in to accompany Dhawan, and after a subdued start he struck a few hits to the fence to set-up the back end of the innings nicely for the likes of Pant and Keemo Paul.
Just as Ingram and Dhawan looked to kick on, Ingram (47 off 32) perished to Ben Cutting as he attempted one shot too many.
In walked Pant and began middling it right from the start. Despite Dhawan departing in the 16th over for a patient 43 off 36 balls, Pant refused to take his foot off the pedal and dismantled the likes of Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah.
His dominance was such that in the 18th over, in MS Dhoni-esque fashion, Pant flicked Bumrah into the deep square leg stand after getting hold of a yorker-length delivery.
Delhi Capitals really took Mumbai to the cleaners, hammering them for 82 in the last five overs, largely courtesy of Pant’s 78 that came off just 27 deliveries and was studded with seven fours and seven big hits.
Chasing 214, despite the good surface, was never going to be easy for Mumbai but Quinton de Kock showed some positive intent early on as he took on Trent Boult and hit him for a couple of boundaries and a massive six in the third over.
The very next over, a rejuvenated Ishant Sharma, playing his first IPL game since May 2017, stunned the vociferous Wankhede crowd as he sent Rohit Sharma back to the hut. A well executed knuckle ball from the Delhi speedster deceived Rohit, who sent the ball into orbit. Rahul Tewatia remain composed and took a well judged catch at the deep square leg fence.
Suryakumar Yadav enjoyed a fruitful season in 2018 but his first innings in the 2019 edition was a short one as he misjudged a single to mid-off and was caught short of the crease with Iyer getting a direct hit.
Ishant then got rid of the dangerous de Kock to leave Mumbai in a spot of bother at 46/3 after the Powerplay.
The seasoned Yuvraj Singh (53 off 35) and Pollard (21 off 13) then staged a mini-revival and took Mumbai to 89 for three at the halfway stage.
Both batsmen showed glimpses of their best and it was an exhibition of clean hitting till Pollard fell victim to his compatriot Paul. Axar Patel then had Mumbai in deep trouble, gleefully accepting a return catch from Hardik (0 off 2 balls).
Despite Yuvraj’s best efforts and a cameo from Krunal Pandya (32 off 15) it was too little too late for the Mumbai side who are off to yet another miserable start to their campaign. For the young Delhi Capitals, the comfortable victory has set them in the right direction, something that will have head coach Ricky Ponting and mentor Sourav Ganguly beaming.