Melbourne: Former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting believes Mumbai Indians' young left-handed batsman Nitish Rana could be in line to make his international debut after his breakthrough Indian Premier League (IPL) season.
The 23-year-old began IPL10 in a blaze of runs, scoring three half-centuries in his first six innings to emerge as one of the surprise packets of the ongoing tenth edition of the tournament.
Ponting, who was in charge of Mumbai Indians in 2015-16, believes Rana is now all set to take the next step and represent his country.
“He's got a very good domestic record in one-day and four-day cricket. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in an Indian T20 squad, because that's generally what they like to do, like with Hardik Pandya; he had a few outstanding performances in the IPL (and was picked). So I wouldn't be surprised to see him in a T20 team or even a one-day team as well,” cricket.com.au quoted Ponting as saying.
As far as Test cricket is concerned, the former Australian skipper suggested that Rana would need to iron out some technical issues before making an impact on the five-day game.
“It probably might take him a little bit longer to develop his Test cricket - he's got a few things to work on there, particularly against fast bowling ... all young Indians have the same deficiencies but I can see him continuing to improve,” he said.
Labelling Rana as a ‘good talent’, Ponting said that he admires the way the Mumbai Indians' batsman plays and hits the ball.
“Out of all the batsmen we had in that first year, Nitish Rana was the one I wanted the most. I loved the way he played, I loved his flair, and he hits the ball in slightly unusual areas as well,” cricket.com.au quoted Pointing as saying.
"He hits the ball very well over the off-side through backward point off the quicks and against the spinners he uses his feet and hits very well through the leg side. He's a good talent," he added.
Rana, who failed to make an IPL debut in 2015, first appeared in the tournament at the back-end of the 2016 edition, when he featured in the final four matches for the Mumbai-based franchise.
And Ponting reveals that Rana missed out on earning the IPL place a bit earlier due to a surplus of batting talent at the franchise.
“He was probably a little unlucky not to play a little bit earlier. But we had guys like (Rohit) Sharma, (Ambati) Rayudu, (Jos) Buttler, (Kieron) Pollard and these guys, and (Parthiv) Patel and Lendl Simmons opening so it was hard to fit him in to the line-up when most of those guys were quite consistent. So he was unlucky,” the former Australian skipper said.
“But we unleashed him in the back end of last season and he played a couple of sensational knocks. After his first game, I could tell he was a bit nervous and was playing as if he was worried about his spot in the side,” Ponting said.
Rana is currently Mumbai's leading run-scorer this IPL campaign, having amassed 312 runs in 11 matches he played so far at an average of 34.66.
He will aim to extend his tally of runs when leaders Mumbai Indians will take on Sunrisers Hyderabad in their next IPL clash at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad on Monday....