Delhi Daredevils may have finished at the bottom of the pile in this year’s IPL, but their coach Ricky Ponting sees a lot of positives that his side could take from the season that has just gone by.

With a host of talented young Indian players in their setup, DD gave the likes of Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Prithvi Shaw and Avesh Khan a good run in the side. On his part, Ponting felt that the Indian talent was outstanding, and that they were not to be blamed for not finishing higher on the table.

“I actually do [in response to the scouts who picked the aforementioned Indian youngsters],” asserted Ponting. “If you look through some of the youngsters that we have played this year, you have to say some of the guys you have seen – Prithvi [Shaw], Abhishek [Sharma], Sandeep [Lamichhane] – you got to say they are some of the most exciting players that have actually taken part ever, Avesh Khan is another one. We have got a lot of very highly talented youngsters and if you look at the results of our Indian players through this tournament, we can’t blame them at all. Our Indian talent has been outstanding and I think the Indian batsmen have contributed probably all bar about 400 runs that we have made in the entire tournament. We can’t complain there. Our scouting was very good,” he added.

Continuing on the same theme, Ponting complimented Pant for having an outstanding season. Pant is currently leading the race for the Orange Cap with 684 runs at an average of 52.62 which included a hundred and five fifties. Ponting hoped that he would win the Orange Cap but lamented the fact that rest of the batsmen apart from Shreyas Iyer couldn’t chip in, which would’ve resulted in them challenging for the title. “It has been an outstanding season for him, obviously wearing the Orange Cap right now,” Ponting said. “It would be nice if he was able to retain that for the remaining games but as we know Kane Williamson is breathing down his throat. It is great recognition for the personal season that Rishabh has had. Across the board we needed a more even contribution – from a few more of our top-order batsmen, if we were going to be a threat to challenge for the title this year. Shreyas had a really good season, probably over 400 runs, he can hold his head up high but we just didn’t get enough consistency from our batting group to be up there with the leading teams in the tournament.”

When the topic moved to the tricky issue of Glenn Maxwell being given a long rope despite him having a poor tournament, Ponting was at pains to explain the rationale behind the Victorian’s inclusion. But in a candid admission, Ponting too couldn’t put a finger on why Maxwell failed to perform before going on to state what the enigmatic all-rounder brings to the table with his skills.

“I wish I knew,” Ponting wondered. “I have spent a long time with Maxwell over the years, was only a few weeks before this tournament came around, I spent the triangular series with him with the Australian team. Did a lot of work with him there, he was actually Man of the Series in that tournament coming over here. He was coming here in good form and having played a little bit of T20 cricket. When we went to the auction table, we sort of picked our group of players. I must admit before the first game I had Glenn Maxwell penciled in as our No. 4 batsman for the tournament.

“He missed the first game for personal reasons with Aaron Finch’s wedding which meant Rishabh batted at No. 4 in game one and played well. When Maxwell came back into the side, he was at No. 5, probably a position where he hasn’t played all that much and having spoken to him a few times through the tournament, he said he felt frustrated that he hadn’t been able to have an impact on the result in a lot of the games for his team. He is an outstanding cricketer, no doubt about that.

“He has had a disappointing IPL this season. Even though we couldn’t qualify, we were taking every game as it was a final. We wanted to put the team on the park that we felt was going to give us the best chance of winning the game. If you look through the overseas batsmen we have, we all felt that Glenn Maxwell was going to be the best chance of being a match-winner for us, so we stuck with him,” he added.

One guy who caught the attention of everyone was the 17-year old legspinner from Nepal, Sandeep Lamichhane, who was given a debut only after DD were knocked out. In the three games he bowled, he finished with five wickets, helping his side to beat MI in their last league game. Ponting praised his young ward’s enthusiasm and ability to bowl with a smile on his face and wished for a successful IPL career in the years to come.

“He has bowled really well in the last three games,” Ponting said. “If you look back to the start of the tournament and what our starting eleven might have looked like, if you put a Rabada and a Chris Morris into that side, with probably a Maxwell, it is pretty hard to fit Sandeep into the starting eleven, Morris played the first four or five games before he went home. We mixed and matched with Plunkett, Boult, Christian, trying to find the right sort of combination that was going to suit different conditions around the country.

We always knew that Sandeep had the skills, we all have seen him for the last eight or nine weeks bowl day in day out. He bowls all day, everyday with a smile on his face and just absolutely loves it. It’s great to see guys like him, even Abhishek Sharma in the last few games. We have unearthed a very talented player in Prithvi Shaw as well, so we have got some really talented youngsters and Sandeep is one of them. We are looking forward to him having a really long [and] successful IPL career, hopefully the whole time here at the Delhi Daredevils,” he noted.

Ponting also backed his under-fire skipper Iyer who was thrust into the limelight after Gautam Gambhir decided to step down and vacate his place in the side as well. Ponting stated that Gambhir’s resignation was a shock to everyone and lauded his character to have taken such a bold step.

“Gautam standing down, I don’t think had a negative impact on our team, it probably came as a bit of a shock to a lot of the players at the time and even to me. I thought it was really a courageous decision for a senior Indian player to make, you don’t see those sort of decisions being made everyday.

“He stood down for what he believed was for the betterment of the team and that says a lot about him as a human being, says a lot about his character as well. He made way which gave Prithvi Shaw an opportunity to play, as I said Prithvi is a highly talented young bloke, has got to work on his running between the wickets, but other than that, he is a pretty good young player.

For a young guy like Shreyas, who has not probably done a lot of captaincy in his earlier days, it is a daunting thing to do. To have to captain an IPL team on the biggest stage in front of big crowds every game but he has handled that challenge particularly well. He is a tremendous young guy, he will go a long way in the game, not only with the Daredevils but with his Indian career as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if I see some more leadership roles coming his way down the track,” signed off Ponting.